Much has been said about the church’s declining influence in North America. Church membership is down. Church attendance is down. The number of people who proclaim faith in Jesus Christ is down.
While there are several reasons for these trends, every church – both big and small – are working to counter this by making their communities more attractive to new people and those who have stopped attending. We’ve changed our style of worship to accommodate more appealing musical elements. We’ve removed pews and made our churches more comfortable. We’ve even added coffee bars.
Many of these changes are necessary to reach the current culture. The changes allow us to be more contextual with the message of Jesus Christ’s love for all. Even as we have made these changes, I have noticed that people still wonder why we need church. We can still hear the questions about its importance and purpose for our lives and faithful living for Jesus Christ. Lost in these needed changes has been a deep perspective on why the church is important for believers.
We go to church, because we believe the church is the ongoing mission of Jesus Christ. This is what the church has been since the days of the Apostles when the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost. The church is the living witness of Jesus Christ. It is not perfect. We are humans, after all, seeking to grow in Christlikeness. The church is going to get it wrong. However, we are what God has given the world to witness to the truth of God’s love for all. You have to love that!
We go to church to worship the Lord. By worship, we mean praise God for who the Lord is, has done, and continues to do in our lives and throughout the world. Worship expresses our heart to the Lord. Corporate worship allows an entire community to join together in singing praises, reflecting, and sharing with others. It is a participatory act that invites an entire community to worship as one through word, table, and service. In a culture that tells us to worship sports and entertainment icons, community worship is a counter-cultural expression of God’s truth and love. The church is a message of hope given to the world.
We go to church to be strengthened and encouraged by other believers. Our individual tendencies are to believe that we do not need anyone else but ourselves. We believe we can worship the Lord alone. This is hardly the case. We need the church and the community of believers to strengthen us in our discipleship. The church is the place where we are held accountable for our actions and taught what it means to follow Christ. We are encouraged by the love and presence of others as we seek to be faithful in our love of God with others.
We go to church to be sent out to be the church. The church is not just a building. We are the church and are sent out to the world to be the church through our witness of Christ’s love toward others. Worship sends us out with a blessing of encouragement to take what we do together and apply it to how we care for others each day.
The church is the world’s hope. My prayer is that we will see the church not just as a place we come to on Sunday mornings if it fits our needs, but it truly becomes our identity to where we can say, as the song does, that we are the church.