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Monday, November 06, 2006 

Why Go to Church?

There are many things in life that we do out of obligation. I am legally obligated to pay taxes, so I do. I am legally obligated to follow the speed limits (although my driving habits might not indicate this). For years, I went to church out of obligation. I went to church not because I wanted to seek the presence of God, or even be in fellowship with others of like mind; no, I went to church because that was what was expected of me. I knew most of the answers to the questions that would be asked in Sunday School (this was not too hard, as most of them were one of three things: Jesus, Prayer, or Bible). I felt at home at the church. People knew me and I knew them.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that church is not about me. It’s about God. It’s about seeking a transforming experience with the divine. It’s about relationship. It’s about worship. It’s about finding life and living it abundantly. It’s not about the building, nor is it about the preacher, nor is it even about good things the church does. It’s about God and our participation in the life of God in this world. Most of all, it’s about love. The words of the apostle make this clear:

7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4: 7-12)

Why do you go to church? I am not sure I like this question because this question assumes that the church is a place. I am going to McDonald’s has the same effect that I am going to church does – it locates the church as a building. Perhaps a better way to ask the question would be “why are you apart of the church?” Really, why are you apart of the church?

C.S. Lewis is most famous for writing the wonderful children’s allegories in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Yet, those are the only books that he wrote that were intended for children. His other writings are brilliant. Read his words. Soak them up.

“The perfect church service, would be one we were almost unaware of.
Our attention would have been on God.” –C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm, p.5

May we live out our lives so that our attention, in the building and out of the building is so focused on God that we love each other like God loves us: not out of obligation, but out of pure, unadulterated, real, inconceivable, love.

Hi Paul - I've been reading a book called "Why Men HATE going to church" written by a presby layperson, and it has been quite an interesting read about how much the church has so disconnected to the needs of men. It plays with much of what you've began here, wondering why we go to church.

As you know I wondered if I would worship on Sabbatical, and find that it has become the high point of my week, a time to connect with God and others in a meaningful way. I guess my answer to the question you pose is so uninspiring, "because I want to"

Peace,
Steven

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