Question 3: Why bother with church?
One of the most common objections to the Christian faith these days comes from people who basically like what they have heard about Jesus Christ yet are turned off by the idea of belonging to a church. Some, perhaps, have had a negative experience in a church or been treated badly; others just don’t like the idea of organised religion and would prefer to worship God in their own way alone.
People who raise these objections definitely have a point. Bad things do go on in churches; there are squabbles, factions and jealousies between church members just as there are in other human organisations. And it’s true that there are many who use public religion as a substitute for personal faith and a way of avoiding God. In some tragic cases, whole churches adopt this mindset and effectively cease to be places for serving God.
Yet churches are necessary despite their many faults. The Christian life is designed to be lived in community and that those who try to worship God alone miss out on God’s blessings. Here are a few points from the Bible.
1. People who try to serve God alone often end up pleasing themselves.
The tragic reality of human nature is that we have a permanent bias toward selfishness and self righteousness. It is this that makes relationships between churchgoers difficult however the same character flaws are present even if we don’t meet with other believers. In fact solitary worshippers are in much greater danger because they have no one to hold them accountable for their actions and can very easily justify their selfishness to themselves. The writer of Hebrews tells his readers that they need to encourage one another daily to avoid being “hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:12-13).
2. Christians need each other.
The Bible describes the church as a body where everyone has something to offer. The members of the church are given complementary gifts by God to enable them to serve each other. Paul insists that it is only as we work hard at serving God together and learning to love each other that we begin to change and become like Jesus. As he puts it in one letter;
It was [Jesus Christ] who gave some to be apostles , some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God’s people for works of service until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
3. The Church is the start of God’s new society.
Although we might find it hard to believe if we have had bad experiences of church, the church is the focus of God’s plan to bring about a united humanity. Jesus Christ is the only force who can begin to overcome human sin and tribalism and bring us together. When a group of people truly put Jesus Christ at the centre of their communal life there is no greater experience of love and unity. As Paul’s letter to the Galatians puts it;
In Christ there is neither Jew or Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ. (Gal 3:28)