Why should I go to church?
by Don Schiemann
“Give me one good reason why I should go to church!” That’s a perfectly legitimate and valid question. It may have been in vogue to go to church 50 or 60 years ago; but, as most denominations will attest, church membership and attendance has experienced a steady decline since then. We had better be prepared to provide a good reason for people to start coming back to church.
What do churches have to offer that would move people to join them and become involved in worship and service? Let’s take a look at some of the “strategies” that certain churches have employed and the responses we might hear.
Church 1: We’re a friendly church.
The response: “So what. I have lots of friends and even if I didn’t, I would still look outside of the church. I simply don’t have much in common with ‘church people.’”
Church 2: Our church has a social conscience and we work for the poor and homeless.
The response: “I spent two weeks last summer working for Habitat for Humanity. I give regularly to the United Way and helped serve Thanksgiving dinner at the local soup kitchen. I didn’t need the church to do all of that so why do I need them now?”
Church 3: Our church has all kinds of activities for youth that will help them build character.
The response: “My kids are involved in hockey, soccer and music lessons. They are already challenged to find time for their school work let alone some church organization. As far as character, that’s my job and I make sure they practice responsible sex and don’t do drugs.”
Church 4: Our church will help you live a happy, meaningful, successful and fulfilled life.
The response: “No thanks. I just read Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, and I watch Dr. Phil and Oprah regularly so I think I’ve got that area covered.”
Church 5: Our church offers fairs, strawberry socials, oyster suppers, square dancing, Japanese weddings, poverty socials, mock marriages, grab bags, necktie socials, etc.
The response: “Umm…I don’t think so.”
Church 6: We offer you a new life.
The response: “What’s wrong with my old life?!”
Well, if you’re like everyone else, you’ve made a lot of mistakes in your life. You’ve hurt people—sometimes even those closest to you; and in one way or another, you’ve disobeyed all of God’s law. Your life is quite broken. It may or may not be comfortable, but it is broken!
“Can’t I fix it on my own?”
If you could fix it, why haven’t you? The fact is, you can’t. But God can. He nailed our broken lives to the cross with His Son and in His resurrection, we have a newness of life.
“And I can receive this new life at church?”
Yes. But even better, we’ll provide you with what you need to sustain this new life. You’ll hear God’s promises spoken. You’ll receive the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion to forgive the deeds of your old life and to strengthen your new life. God will take simple water and connect it with His Word and wash away the old life. We’ll give you something that you can take to the grave and that will one day take you out of the grave!
What’s the catch? What do I have to do? How much is it going to cost me?
There is no catch. There is nothing you have to do. There is nothing you can do. There is a great cost attached to this, but God has already paid it for you. It’s like this: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:3-7).
Rev. Don Schiemann is President of the Alberta-British Columbia District of Lutheran Lutheran–Canada.