24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 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. Hebrews 10:24-25
“Time to get up! It’s time to get ready for church!” That is usually the first message I preach on Sunday mornings, before I ever enter the pulpit to declare God’s truths to the family of FBC Baton Rouge. My very first pleading is with my own children to wake up, eat breakfast, and get dressed because “we are going to church.” This is a message I heard growing up in my own home. My parents were sure to have the entire family in Bible study and worship every Sunday. Barring some unforeseen sickness or circumstance, we had a pretty high attendance rate at church throughout my childhood. And I am eternally grateful to my parents for their faithfulness to do so. Once I was in college, I continued to attend church regularly, depending on which family members that Ginger and I were visiting that weekend. Since I became a youth pastor and entered the ministry many years ago, it’s been a given that we are going to church. In fact, much of our life as a family today revolves around the life of the church, which is the nature of being a pastor. We love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I’ve noticed something in my own children recently that has caused me to think more deeply on what it means to go to church: they don’t ask me why we go to church. They just go. They get up and they get ready and we go together. Our weekly trek to FBC in downtown Baton Rouge is a given every single week, and there isn’t any question or discussion about it. That concerns me somewhat because I don’t want my children to think that we attend worship and Bible study simply because I am the pastor of the church; I want them to know why we believe it is important and necessary for EVERY BELIEVER to make “going to church” a high priority. Of course, I cannot just pull some made up reasons out of thin air and make them truth; we have to go to the Bible and see why God says the church is His plan and his desire for us (notice the scripture references along the way!). Yes, I know “going to church” is a bit of a misnomer, because we “are” the church. But for the sake of this article, let us understand that going to church means regularly attending worship and bible study with other Christian believers. I want to give you 3 reasons why we go to church.
Surrendering to Jesus
Your regular, uncompromising commitment to a local church is one glaring piece of evidence that you are surrendered to Jesus. I know there are likely many people who do not trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord yet they regularly attend worship at a local church. They may even give evidence that they know Christ, but in the end they will be found out to be frauds (Matthew 13:24-30). BUT, there are also some who are genuine believers and faithful ones of God who truly trust in Christ for salvation; they are the saints of God who have given their lives to Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:2). Therefore they have committed to a local church as a testimony of their faith in Jesus. As messy as it may be at times, the church is God’s design and Jesus died to create a people for himself (1 Peter 2:9-10), which the world will not overcome (Matthew 16:18). So we tell the world of our love for Jesus by joining his church and by attending Bible study and worship and service opportunities and fellowships as mission trips as often as possible. You go to church because you are surrendered to Jesus.
Grace and truth
The church exists to glorify God. But we cannot exalt the name of God until our hearts are right with him by faith in Jesus Christ. So, we need to hear what God has to say in order to know how he expects us to live. This happens in the church when the Word of God is proclaimed unapologetic-ally, declaring the truths of God with grace for all those who hear. We attend Bible study and worship to have our souls challenged and uplifted; to be corrected and encouraged (2 Timothy 3:16-17). No one who goes to church is ever “just fine”, and to believe that is a delusion (Romans 3:23). Every time we step into that Sunday School classroom or sanctuary, we are admitting that we need something. We need truth to correct our sinful inclinations, to sustain us in trouble, to comfort us in grief, and to move us out of our seats and into the world that needs the gospel. But we do not only declare cold truths to people then leave them on their own to figure it out. We declare the grace of God’s salvation extended to sinners like us, and his continued, daily work of sanctifying his people for his glory (John 17:17). We confess that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and that he is with us every single day. We admit that we are NOT all put together and completely healthy, but we are striving toward the goal of Christ-likeness (Philippians 3:12-13), by God’s grace and rooted in our belief in the eternal Word of God. We go to church to hear from God, to see Jesus, and to fellowship in the Spirit with other Christian believers. We believe the truth as we walk in grace by faith in Jesus our Lord (John 1:14).
Loving the Bride of Christ
Finally, we go to church because we love God’s people. I’ve grown so very weary of hearing all the reasons why the church is so bad. You know what, I agree. The church is so bad, that Jesus had to give his live to save her and to make her what she will be One Day. What’s more is that he loves his church as much today as he will then. The church is HIS; fully, completely, and forever! As a result of Jesus’ great love for his people, we are compelled to love his people as well. So, we are saved and called to love the church. Despite all of her shortcomings, she is the Bride of Christ. In fact, you can’t tell me that you love Jesus but despise his bride. To love Christ is to love what he gave his life to save. One of the first evidences of a redeemed life is one that loves the church. Jesus said that the world would know that we love Him because we love each other (John 13:34-35, 15:12-17) and the New Testament church was commanded to love one another as evidence of their salvation (Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 4:2, Hebrews 10:24, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 John 4:7). Do you love the people of God? If so, then get up and go to church.
This is why we gather every Sunday morning – to tell our brothers and sisters in Christ that we love them, that Jesus loves them, and that there is plenty of room at the cross of Christ for all the hurting, broken, suffering, confused, and weary sinners of our city.
So, get up and go to church! It is a grace of God for his glory and for the good our souls. Let us never take for granted what we have in our church family.