I’ve spent the past two months visiting churches in nine different states. First, let me say it was a blessing to see the many ways churches are bringing about transformation in their congregations and communities. There are way more good things that go on in churches than we give them credit for. Unfortunately, I also heard a good amount of complaining during my travels. I don’t like this about worship, I don’t like our pastor, I wish we did things this way, etc. I was especially taken aback by the number of my friends that were once very active church members that have more or less given up on Church, often in anger and frustration over one issue or another. These people, and many more I have met, believe in God, but have been so burned by experiences in the local church that they have nothing to do with it. My experiences are out of left field. In the last U.S. community I served 85% of the population confessed believing in God, but only around 35% were active in a church. This all begs the question: why church? Why should I be involved in a church, even when I’ve been hurt? Why should I be involved in a church when there are so many resources online today?
Acts 2:42-47 lays out in detail how the first church functioned, and when I read that passage it becomes clear to me how important being part of a church community is. Here are four big answers to the “why church?” question from Acts 2:
To learn and grow (v.42): We participate in a Christian community so that we can learn from the wisdom of others. People grow not only from hearing sermons on Sunday, but from watching the example of others, being mentored, hearing testimonies, and being held accountable.
To improve one another (v.44): Church should be a community where we make one another better. We pray for each other, offer encouragement, are there in difficult times, and help break sinful habits. A church thrives when everyone takes this responsibility seriously.
To improve the world (v.45): There is so much need in our community, state, nation, and world. While we can (and should) take actions to address these needs individually, we make the biggest impact when we serve together.
To celebrate God (v.45-47): So much about Church seems to revolve around music. Many people pick what church to attend because of it, and much of our in fighting stems from it. We need to move beyond music preferences, realizing that what is central to worship is God’s people coming together to celebrate God for all He does for us. We need to understand worship as a time we give to God, not as a time for us to be receiving.
Many of us grumble because we’ve either neither found these things in a church, or because our church does not seem to do them well. I want to say this to all of us: instead of grumbling about our church, lets start making these things happen ourselves. Start seeing church as a place to grow, make others better, improve your world, and truly celebrate God.