It’s Saturday night. If you don’t usually attend a church service on the weekend, you may be thinking, Why even bother going to church this Sunday? I don’t know or like any of those people. What would I get out of spending two hours sitting in a pew? Wouldn’t I be better off watching the game with friends, helping someone in need, or advocating for a cause?
While connecting with people, helping those in need, fighting injustice, and resting are all necessary things, we should not prioritize them above God himself. God alone is preeminent (Colossians 1:18). These activities should flow from life-giving connection with Christ and his people. When we make good things central we give them God’s position, and they become idols.
Our view of Jesus and his church is often filtered through historical, political, and pop-culture lenses. Many see the church as producing cookie-cutter people who follow dominant power structures rather than as a living organism with discipleship and merciful influence in our surrounding communities.
But why should you go? Here are five reasons for gathering with believers this weekend.
1. To remind each other who and whose we are.
In a world offering a multiplicity of viewpoints, there is one place that people can find truth (John 8:26). The church is a lighthouse in an ethical fog (Matthew 5:14–16).
My jazz musician father often said of my elementary educator mother, “She always reminds me where 12:00 is.” Who helps you find your bearings when you’re unsure how to navigate an increasingly complex world? Are you bumbling your way through life, or do you have a steady compass and anchor for your soul (Hebrews 6:19)? We gather with other saints for discipleship, and then are scattered as salt and light in the world as missionaries where we dwell (Matthew 5:13–16; 28:18–20).
2. To remind us that temporal trials we face will have a joyful end.
One of the most impactful funerals I’ve attended was to support a brother whose mother passed suddenly. Our pastor preached from Ecclesiastes 7:1–2 (NASB):
A good name is better than a good ointment,
And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.
In those somber moments of reflection on God’s word, we were reminded of our own fragility: we will all die, and it could be sooner than we expect. Yet, in that sweet, grace-filled meditation, we were also encouraged to live purposefully and with integrity, considering ultimate reality. We are not to live our best life now, as proclaimed by the prosperity gospel, but we live soberly and prudently to maximize our brief time on earth (Psalm 90:12; Ephesians 5:16). For Christians, our best life is yet to come (Psalm 16:11).
3. To encourage growth and fight stagnation.
I am blind to my own blindness, and I need the perspective of others who are further along the road to Christlikeness than I am. We are prone to minimize our own faults and focus on others’ (Matthew 7:3–5). Close-knit community lovingly urges us toward maturity (Ephesians 4:13–24; John 8:31–32).
4. To spend time with family.
The church isn’t primarily a building or a set of programs or strategies. It’s a family, with spiritual fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. It’s a body whose neediest members find help (Acts 2:42–47; Acts 6:1–6; 1 Timothy 5:9–16), whose generous ones cheerfully contribute (2 Corinthians 8; Philippians 4:10, 15–18). In this family, each member’s participation and gifts are essential for the whole body to thrive (Romans 12:4–8; Ephesians 4:11–16).
When I trusted Christ at age 18, I was only a serial church attender. After my college graduation, I focused on my new job and spending time with my parents during my mother’s battle with terminal cancer. When my mother passed away, a co-worker (who was also a pastor’s wife) gently encouraged me during that season, “You need a church home, Tiffany. You need aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers.” Her words resonated in my soul.
A few months later, I was baptized into a local church. They welcomed me with open arms — warts and all. Some of my most precious, poignant, and powerful memories involve the family I’ve found in church. I grew up away from extended family, but I now have a family in my church.
5. To remind us of our living hope.
It’s true, some churches have fallen captive to living for the status quo rather than living for the one who undergirds and intertwines himself in human history (Psalm 90:1; John 1:14). This is not the way of the healthy church, however. A church family that is pressing into Jesus’s mission is forced to trust God for his presence, power, and provision (Matthew 28:18–20). The church gathers as a reminder that we can only experience fruitful mission when we are tethered to and drawing sustenance from the true vine (John 15). His word is our daily bread.
There are a million good things you and I could do that would hinder us from locking arms with God’s people. If you’re on the fence: Will you set an alarm with a purpose to join in worshiping God with a local church this weekend? I promise you that as many reasons as you might have not to go, there are even more reasons to trust God, commit, and go every week.
Tiffany Johnson serves as a deacon and worship leader at Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia.