Why bother with church?
Why bother with church? I think that’s a great question, and I can think straight away of a couple of reasons why you might ask it.
It might be because you think: “I’ll be the odd one out—I won’t have any thing in common with those churchy types.” Or it might be because you think you’d be judged. You think that other people will look down on you because of your history or your background, or something like that.
On that first one of feeling like the odd one out, the Bible says that, incredibly, when we put our trust in Jesus we become part of a new family: we’re adopted into God’s family. That means that Jesus Christ himself becomes our brother, and God becomes our heavenly, loving, perfect Father. And that means that we’ve got a bond between us that is far more powerful and deep than anything that we can ever imagine.
So churches are therefore groups of people who, even though they might be different from one another on the surface, have a great, great bond between them. So what you find in churches that understand this is groups of people that want to be like a family—they want to love one another, and go the extra mile for one another.
So—whether you’ve had a good week at work or a bad week, whether you need someone to put an arm round your shoulder… or you need someone to go out for a coffee with and get something off your chest… or you need someone just to cook you a meal because you’re feeling exhausted—church communities are places where people want to go the extra mile, and love one another as families.
Now I know it’s not always like this, and just like in blood families it can be hard, tough, and sometimes we get it wrong. But even so, there is this incredible bond between people who put their trust in Jesus which means we are part of one, incredible family.
What about that second thing, about feeling judged? Well, Jesus said he didn’t come for those who had their lives sorted, but for people who realised that they didn’t have their lives sorted: that they needed his help.
Sometimes I think we can think of church a bit like an exclusive club, where the people on the inside look down on the people on the outside. But Jesus said that we should look at things in a completely different way. He said that church was more like a spiritual hospital. He even says these words in Mark’s gospel: he says that the healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick.
He says: “I’ve not come to call the righteous (those who think they’ve got their lives sorted), but sinners (those who realise that they haven’t got their lives sorted).”
What Jesus was saying was that Christians are people who realise that they need a spiritual doctor. In Bible language, we’ve turned our backs on God, and we’re spiritually sick. And yet God has come down to earth in the person of Jesus Christ as the ultimate spiritual doctor, to save us and to help us to change.
And if we understand that, then we won’t look down one another, because we’ll realise that we’re sick people and we need God’s help, just like everyone else does.
We don’t always get this right as churches, and you may be someone who feels burned or hurt by your own church experience.
But I can say from my personal experience that I’ve been in churches where people have understood these kind of truths about Jesus—they’ve understood putting Jesus and his teaching first, that we’re to be communities that are like families that love one another, to be communities that recognise that we’re spiritually sick.
And when I’ve been involved in churches like that, it’s been an incredible thing—it’s been a place where people want to love one another, don’t want to stand in judgement on one another, and want to admit when they make mistakes. And, as hard as it is, as difficult as it is, churches like that are incredible places to be part of.
Going to a particular church meeting for the first time can be a really intimidating experience: particularly if you’ve never been before or have got bad memories of church from the past!
Churches vary hugely. Some have thousands of people at them; some have a dozen. Some have meetings that last under an hour; some go on much longer. But a good church will have the Bible at the heart of everything, because the Bible is God’s word; and it’ll be welcoming and friendly to newcomers, because that’s how Jesus was to people.
Going along to church is a great way to think through who Jesus is, and whether you want to “receive him” into your life yourself. If you’ve never been, or you haven’t been for years, why not:
GIVE IT A GO—you can find a good church near you by going to the “Find a Course
” section of this website.
GO TO a Christianity Explored course, run by a church near you—a great way to meet and make friends with some people who go to church, and some people who are in a similar position to you—again, go to “Find a Course