The Value of Church
We have been told that our time is valuable. It is a truth that I believe the younger generations have taken to heart. We seek to spend our time not just working hard but doing things we want to do. We watched as the previous generations worked their bones to dust, woke up early and came home late, retired later, only to have a few short years of rest. The younger generation has taken that lesson to heart. So culturally, we use our time as an investment. So what investment is the church? Let us be honest with one another; we are a society that wants to know what is in it for us. So what does church do for us?
I know the deep question of the faith should be what do we do for the church. Following the way of Jesus would be gathering together to find ways to serve others, not ourselves. However, that is not where our individual stories begin. We come in search of something more and a connection. Yet, in a world that says god is everywhere and we don't need an institution to connect with god, or we can be spiritual but not religious, what is the reason for going to church? What is the reason for having church? I think this question becomes even more important in times of transition, such as college.
I think our first response is we go to church to experience God. Surely the church is the place where we can experience the almighty? We go through great lengths to set the mood, set the table, we even try to play music to get us in the mood. And it is true, many have and will continue to meet God, specifically God the Father, in Jesus, through the presence of the Spirit. However, I think there is a more practical reason for going to church.
In Hebrews 10 the preacher tells us why the church is important, and attendance should be regular. The preacher is bolding proclaiming that we have the confidence to go before the very presence of God thanks to Jesus and uses beautiful imagery to remind us of our baptism. The preacher then drops this gold nugget on us.
"Let us hold on tightly to our confession of hope, without being diverted; the one who announced the message to us is trustworthy! Let us, as well, stir up one another's minds to energetic effort in love and good works. We mustn't do what some people have got into the habit of doing, neglecting to meet together. Instead, we must encourage one another, and all the more as you can see the great day coming closer.": (Hebrews 10:23-25)
Here is the reason we go to church. We center ourselves on the hope that we confessed at our baptism. We publically declared our love, loyalty, and trust in Jesus the day we were baptized. The church is a place where we live and are reminded of the love, loyalty, and trust in Jesus. Together Hebrews proclaim that we are to stir up each other's minds for love and good works. We are to come together to live out our faith. As I said earlier, we are to gather together to serve at church. We are not finding ways to be served. We find out who is having a baby and prepare meals for them, or visit those who are sick or gather funds for the people who just lost their home. We gather together to serve our community. In serving, in loving our neighbor, we love and encounter Christ.
We also go to church to be encouraged by one another. We don't just gather together to make sure everyone believes exactly the same thing. We gather to encourage each other on the path of following Jesus. Daily we pick up our cross and it is not an easy journey. We gather together to cheer each other on, lift each other up, help each other, and more. Church becomes a place of fellowship where we can gather with people from different ages, backgrounds, wealth, education, careers, family dynamics and more. It is there in the diversity that we grow and become people who are transformed by love. Our unity comes not from politics, money, sports teams, nationality, or favorite bands, but from our commitment to faithfully trust and follow Jesus. Jesus becomes our unity.
Also, that encouragement comes in the form of carrying the faith. Sometimes we may not feel close to God. We may be in a place of struggle and doubt. The church should be a safe place where doubt and struggle are part of the journey. There may be times when you need the congregation to hold on to your faith when maybe you can't. Maybe because you lost a close loved one, are struggling with a mental or physical illness, or maybe you have just gone through a rough life transition that has rocked you to your core. The church is the place that can hold your faith (and you) lovingly as you wander in the wilderness for a while.
Now, sure, some places are called churches that do not do this. Where there is more pain, struggle, and doubt added to the person. It breaks my heart when people do not find healing and love at a church. I do not choose to ignore the reality of brokenness in the churches. However, I believe most gathered people following Jesus seek to be the best of what the author of Hebrews presents.
Why go to church? What does the church have to offer me? These questions reveal awesome answers. The church is a place where we love and support each other. Church is a place where we gather to experience God not just in the rituals we do together but by our service to and with each other. The church is the place we can come to when we are doubting and struggling. It is the place we can go to be encouraged, lifted up, and empowered. It is the place we can go where we can be carried.
As you are starting your fall semester at NIU, I welcome you to BCM. A place where we strive to serve each other, encourage each other and empower one another. You can find ways to connect with us on our website baptistcampusministryniu.com