Why Church?

Church attendance does not save you. It doesn’t earn you any favor with God. You can find better preaching and worship music on the radio or on the Internet. So why bother with church? Hey, you can just as easily eat coffee and cookies at home.

The book of Hebrews answers this in two broad ways:

First, a church needs you: The commands in Hebrews concerning “gathering together” are active/participatory rather than passive/consumerist. The pastor says in 3:13 “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that you may not be hardened by sins deceitfulness.” Again, in 10:24 he says, “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” And in 10:25 he gives the command, “let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.” When this is combined with the uniqueness of spiritual giftedness, we can see each individual within the church has a unique ability to encourage others toward love and good deeds. Somewhere, a local church needs your abilities and encouragement.

Second, you need a church: The early Christians were besieged by persecution (as are many Christians around the world.) For them, participation with a local church was dangerous. Gathering together made them vulnerable to attack. Indeed, some Christians were “publicly exposed to insult,” sent to prison, and robbed of property (10:32-34). This produced a strong incentive for the Christians to either abandon the faith all together, or at least abandon others who did.

The writer of Hebrews, however, wanted something more for them than mere safety. The promise for those who persevered by the grace of God was worth for more than what they would give up. It was not a loss to give up earthly possessions in order to gain eternal ones (10:34). Indeed, it was even worthwhile to give up one’s life, for the sake of a better resurrection (11:35).

To be able to stand in the face of this persecution the pastor saw only one sufficient resource – the grace you can receive in the very presence of God. Only Jesus is able to draw us into the presence of the holy God. In approaching the Holy of Holies himself, through his perfect, once-for-all sacrifice, he saves us completely. Then he beckons us to follow him. We are told to “approach the throne of grace” with confidence” and “draw near to God with a sincere heart.” But what does this actually mean? There may be several ways to do this, but at least one thing the pastor had in mind was the act of corporate worship – the people of God coming together to praise God.

It is clear the pastor believed that if the people of God gathered together for worship and mutual encouragement they would avoid the fate of the wilderness generation that experienced the judgment of God, something he explicitly states in 3:13 saying “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that you may not be hardened by sins deceitfulness.” I’m not sure if you noticed, but it’s getting hostile out there and we need one another in order to cultivate our faith.

Find a community of faith where you can “set your hand to the plow” and get to work. That church needs you, and you need that church.

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2 thoughts on “Why Church?

  1. mikewittmer

    Uh-oh. I was brainstorming yesterday for a potential book project and came up with your title and both of your subtitles. Now I’m going to have to change them so I don’t look like I plagiarized. I do admire your thinking!

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