There was a time I quit going to church.
It wasn’t an intentional decision, exactly. I just stopped getting up in time to go. I was a senior in college and struggling with some serious health issues that left me tired and in pain. I was attending a limited number of classes during the week, and on Sunday I just couldn’t (or didn’t) force myself to go anywhere.
At the time, I wasn’t connected to a specific church body, so nobody noticed I’d dropped out. I didn’t really resume my church attendance until I graduated from college and started going again with my parents.
Did this “break” from church damage my Christian walk? Not really. I still read my Bible, studied Scripture (I was at Bible college) and had conversations with other Christians. So I don’t have a dramatic tale of how not attending church was the beginning of the end for me.
And that’s precisely why I’m writing this. It’s pretty easy to stop attending church regularly and not feel too bad about it. I can easily justify my behavior. I can watch sermons online, have rich quiet times with the Lord and meet friends for spiritual conversations while pretty much accomplishing the same thing as a Sunday morning service. So basically, if I can get more out of pursuing my faith my way, what’s the point of going to church?
I was recently listening to a teaching series on Philippians by Matt Chandler, lead teaching pastor of The Village Church in Texas. He was asking some of these same questions, and he said, “Church has to be the lamest hobby in the universe. Get a boat. Climb a mountain. Ski! Do anything but church.” He then pointed out that church isn’t really built for self-satisfaction. You have to make the effort to go. Then you have to stand a lot. Sometimes you miss a football game. If you want a fun hobby, church isn’t it.
So what should be our motivation for even going? Well, you’ve probably already heard that Christians are supposed to go. Also, the church is a big deal to Jesus. Consider His words to Peter: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The church — flaws and all — is God’s chosen method for warding off Satan’s schemes and for mobilizing Christians to withstand his attacks. So while I may get more out of my personal time with God than some messages I sit through, if I love Jesus and am chasing after Him, I can’t opt out of church. I just can’t.
Giving up on church is not a new temptation, either. Speaking to newly converted first-century Christians, Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
I can tell you about the benefits of being active in your church until I’m blue in the face. But the bottom line is, church is not a hobby. It’s not something designed to make you feel good and round out your life (although it often does!). Church is God’s choice of how to do things on earth. The question is, will I do faith my way or His?