Why do you go to church?

December 15, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I have been thinking about something and anyone who reads this blog knows that it means trouble….

Over the past year, I’ve been looking for a church. I have been to a few churches and they’ve been full of nice people, and yet, I’ve not been able to find a church that has what I am looking for in a church. Let me state again, the churches that I’ve been to are full of very nice people, but it’s not enough. My search is especially frustrating because I live in the “Bible belt” of the United States. Here, there is a church on every street corner (this is almost literal). Here, going to church is a regular part of life. But, as I’ve studied scripture, I’ve noticed that the reason we go is very important. Even more important is what goes on there.

Before I continue, let me explain what I’m looking for in a church. I’m not looking for the latest sound system or one big screen on each side of the church. These aren’t necessarily bad, they’re just not something that drives why I go. I’m not looking for programs or canned teaching from the Christian bookstore. I don’t go to church to hear about football, baseball, or hunting. I don’t go to church on Sunday to be entertained. I have six and a half other days for that. If you’re a pastor and you want to entertain me, call me. I’ll come to your house and sit and listen to you while you tell jokes. I’ll even laugh and applaud. But that’s not what I need. I go to church to be fed. I go to church to be taught – from the scriptures. I go to hear about what God said, the way He said it. I even go to have my toes stepped on because I know that God wants me to grow in holiness and that’s what I want too. Unfortunately, even in the Bible belt, it’s extremely difficult to find a church like this.

I’ve been to churches where the people are really nice to you – while you’re standing in front of them. But, if you’re out of earshot or, better yet, not around; they will gossip about you like it’s going out of style. Others present one image in church to their fellow congregants and a different one to everyone else. This is hypocrisy (read Galatians 2). Still others have certain cliques/families that you have to be a part of to even been looked at. I’ve been to churches where it’s all about going out and “living Christ out in front of people”. Sadly, the pastor didn’t give any indication in that morning’s sermon what that actually looks like. Instead, he read a passage of scripture and then presented an editorial about what he thought a Christian should look like or went on to talk about everything but the scripture he read. Other pastors have cobbled together a number of different scriptures out of context in order to make a point that isn’t even in scripture. It’s not just the pastor though. I’ve sat in Sunday school classes where it was all about cutting up and laughing. It was talking about what happened that weekend. If you weren’t there, you were fair game. Other classes were all about a prefabricated “Bible study” that is supposed to show you how to live. They never got through it. A couple of scriptures were half-heartedly read and someone would talk about how that scripture reminded them of something and, before you know it, thirty minutes of chatter had passed and the class was over. What did we have to show for it? Nothing…

I am sure that this sounds like a rant against everything Christianity, but it’s not. It is me in complete bewilderment about some things that I see going on. I don’t understand them and when I look at what the Bible says about the church, I don’t see these things mentioned.

Am I that different? Am I wrong for wanting to study only scripture? Am I wrong for wanting to get rid of all the pretenses that have become a part of the American church-going experience and go back to what scripture says we should be doing? Am I wrong for expecting pastors to teach directly from scripture with a right understanding? All of these things and more have been tumbling around in my heart for a while now and I’m no closer to an answer now than I was when it started. I’m not proud enough to think that I have Christianity all figured out. I know that I have a lot to learn and by God’s grace I’m doing so, but it’s mostly on my own. My disenchantment comes because I understand how little I know and I can’t seem to find anyone who knows more than I do and is willing to preach that so that I can learn from them. I listen to them read a passage of scripture and as I listen, I am already picking out things that I anticipate they’ll talk about. “Maybe they will go here and talk about this, or maybe it will be this”. But it never happens. If they even remotely stick to the scripture that is the day’s selection, they fill it with so many anecdotes, one-liners, and lame illustrations that it looks like a Hollywood starlet after Botox. You don’t even recognize the scripture anymore.

What makes it worse is when it’s a scripture that I’ve studied before. I know what I learned when I studied it and I get excited thinking that other people are going to get to learn what I did. It just makes the fall harder to bear when the pastor talks about Saturday’s game or the deer that they killed. When I go to Sunday school, it’s no different. The teacher reads the predetermined script from their teacher’s guide and when they get to the scripture passages they stumble over them like it’s the first time that I’ve read them. The shallow treatment leaves a lot to be desired and I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut anymore. Every time I answer a question, I get looked at like I’m a freak because I dared to go deeper than what the booklet said. Theology is all but gone in everything that goes on in many churches today. The music is “uplifting” because of the feeling it gives us instead of the content of the lyrics. The “preaching” is powerful because of how loudly the “pastor” shouts instead of the gravity of what is preached. It’s like we’ve latched on so hard to the “save people” part of Christianity that we’ve forgotten how we do that or why.

What has happened? Am I just completely crazy? Why do so few people who name the name of Christ seem to be hungry for Him or His Word? Is this the apostasy that the Bible talks about? Are so many falling away from their first love? I’ve actually had people tell me that I’m too zealous for this stuff and that I’ll mellow out and calm down after awhile. I DON’T WANT TO MELLOW OUT, I WANT TO BE CLOSER TO GOD! And I expected that it would be easy to find others that want that too. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve found plenty of people who say that they want to be closer to God, but they aren’t willing to put in the time or effort (or give up their sins or their prestige) in order to do so. If it costs them time or work or money, forget it…

So, let me ask you. Why do you go to church? Do you go because it’s something you’ve always done? You were raised in the church and you go just because? Or do you go because it’s a social club and you want to make sure that you get to rub elbows with certain people and make sure that you’re seen by others? Or, do you go because it’s a duty. You have to go because you feel guilty if you don’t? Or do you go because it somehow wipes out the sinful life that you’ve led the rest of the week?

If you go for any of the reasons above, you’re not going for the right reasons. You are also not giving God the respect He deserves. If, however, you go because you want to be closer to God; if you go because you hunger for truth and you can’t get enough of studying God’s Word, then you are not alone. I am just like you. I want nothing but Christ and don’t care for the fluff. I am hungry to study and show myself approved. I want to get to the point where I live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. I’m hoping to find others like me and I grieve when I can’t. I know that you’re out there, and if you’re reading this, then keep the faith. Keep looking for others like you who are hungry and can’t get enough. Eventually, maybe we’ll run into each other. And when we do, it’s going to be AWESOME!

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