You need to stop regarding church as a requirement.
I am going to say something that many of you will not agree with,
Going to church is not a requirement.
That’s right, I am a pastor with a mission to bring more people into our church building to hear the message of Jesus, and I am telling you right now that church is NOT a requirement. There is nothing you can do to earn favor with God, not even attend church.
So, if church is not required, why should you go?
So let’s answer it.
But first we have to redefine an archaic word that carries a load of baggage and negative connotation: church. Often, when people outside of the Christian faith throw around this word, they are referring to a certain building that houses Christians a couple times a week. They might share some juicy gossip of what the priest was accused of at “that church,” or how they live right around the corner from “this church.”
There is a simple way to redefine this word, both in these people’s minds, but also in your own. I have started to refer to my “church” as my “community.” I mean, when you think about it, that’s really all a church is. It is a body of like-minded people who share many hours, thoughts, and convictions with one another.
It’s similiar to any sports team you have been a part of in the past. You share a common passion for the sport, you talk using insider language, and you meet together multiple times a week. There is something unique and special about your community that makes it just that: yours.
Community is highly important for the human experience, and there are many benefits of being involved in a church community.
In a church community you will find:
A group of people trying to collectively understand God better;
A group of people trying to live better lives by mirroring the life of Jesus;
A group of people encouraging one another in love and good deeds.
That last one is particularly special to me.
A couple summers ago, someone very close to me tried to take their life by suicide. This is a reality that is all too real these days, isn’t it? From recent events you read about on social media, to things discussed amongst your friends or co-workers, to perhaps something darker you are dealing with in your own heart. Suicide is no joke.
I remember as I struggled through this person’s decision, many people asked how I was making it through without falling into my own pit of darkness. My answer was simple.
I survived because of my community.
There were people at the time who surrounded me with love and encouragement; they took me out for coffee and listened to me vent, and yell, and cry. They cried with me. I had people who shared wisdom on how to work with this person and others who simply called every day to make sure I woke up that morning and was staying productive.
My community had my back.
Here is what I want you to walk away from with this reading. If you are going to remember anything, just remember this phrase. In fact, I’ll go ahead and make it bigger so it sticks in your memory even firmer.
Church is not a requirement. Church is a gift.
It’s about time that we begin looking at it this way. There is nothing you can do to change God’s love for you, so get it out of your head that God loves you less because you do not go to church, or that he is looking at you favorably because you go every time the doors are open. God’s love is unfairly given to every. single. one. of. us. no matter our church attendance.
HOWEVER, that does not minimize the importance of church (or community) in your life.
God is basically saying to you:
“Hey, I get that life is hard. Really hard at times. And I am not promising you that it’s going to get better if you begin following me. In fact, it might get even tougher. Which is why I am giving you this gift; why I am giving you this community of people. So that when life does get tough, you can surround yourself with people who are going to love you, and encourage you, and lift you back up.”
Church is not a requirement. Church is a gift. The real question you should be asking yourself is if you are taking advantage of that gift freely given?
And I get it. Perhaps you have been burned by a church in the past, or something was said that left a bad taste in your mouth, or you are just not welcome at a particular one. My advice, move on to the next one! While there is not a perfect church out there, I can guarantee there is one that will fit better with who you are and how you see the world.
Stop looking for the perfect church with the most perfect people who believe the most perfect beliefs. Go worship a perfect God today with a community of flawed people who need grace as much as you do.