Going to church

What people say about it

  • According to the bible you have to go to church

  • The church service is ‘fuel’ for the rest of the week

  • If you don’t go to church your faith will dilute very fast

  • You don’t go to get something out of it, but to bring something into it

  • Connect groups are the heartbeat of the church

How you can also look at it

If it wasn’t mandatory, would I go?

There was a time church services didn’t appeal to me at all. After twenty years the sermons didn’t speak to me anymore, the music was mediocre, the children didn’t like Sunday school that much, so we regularly overslept.

A new church, new sermons, new stile of music, new Sunday school and youth, everything was fresh and exiting.

But another fifteen years on, the sermons again didn’t speak to me, the music wasn’t appealing any more, the teens didn’t like the service very much, so we regularly skipped.

Does the bible call us to faithfully keep going to the meetings in these circumstances? (Hebrews 10:25) Why? To fill some chairs? What is the use of the assembling together? What was the practice in biblical times?

In the period of the early church there were no church buildings; they only came after 300. It was a Roman practice that rich people had a group of ‘followers’ who regularly met in their houses to eat and after that, spent the night together. During these meetings all kinds of things could be done; conversation, speeches, lectures, but also music and singing. It was a custom everybody contributed. The Christians used this as a role model for their own meetings.

So this is totally different from our church services. If everybody contributes you learn to know each others talents, lives and questions, each others beautiful and difficult times. You can learn from one another, support and comfort each other and celebrate together. If you don’t show up, there is a gap, because your contribution is missed. You are part of a body, isn’t it? (1 Corinth 12)?

This ideal image even wasn’t reached in Paul’s time. He writes regularly that they will have to forgive each other, don’t quarrel, don’t form parties, strengthen each other instead of breaking down, and don’t make a mess of supper and the rest of the evening. He himself was so eloquent that people fell asleep (Acts 20:9) and he himself said he wasn’t the most charismatic preacher. (1 Corinth 2:4). So the early church doesn’t give us a picture of how you can keep things interesting. But Paul highly values the interconnectedness

If you think your church is boring, could it help to look for a new church? Everything will be looked upon from a new perspective and that will make things interesting again. But that effect will also fade away after some years. And to change churches every five years or so… A church isn’t something on the sidelines, it is a substantial part of your life. You invest time and money and you get information and insight in return. You become part of a group and you get friends. This will alter your way of thinking and your perspective on life more than you think. Only when you move to another church you will notice how much influence the former church has had on you. Every so often an other church you become a part of doesn’t sound spiritually healthy to me. How often can you adapt your insights without becoming cynical? Is it possible to embrace the habits of a new church for the forth time? Or do you develop an urge to tell your new church that they can do better on some things?

Reformed churches just replace the minister. Every now and then that brings new life. May be it is a good idea for evangelical churches…

But when it comes down to it, your fellow members just stay and it is the connection with them that makes the church what it is. Because, lets be honest, sermons you can listen everywhere, ten a day if you like. So when you don’t hear anything new in the sermons just grab a book.

But when your fellow church members don’t bring anything new to the table and go around in the same old circles then things really get boring. If you can’t ask questions because you always get a knock-out argument, or can’t talk about a problem (sorry, a challenge) because they don’t listen but only advice, you indeed can wonder what you are doing there. Especially if there is no room for new things you discover because they think the same for generations, you really can get stuck.

I am afraid that ‘do not forsake the assembling of ourselves together’ is in the bible just because so often it isn’t fun. The reasons in the surrounding texts are about paying attention to each other and to spur one another on doing good. The meetings isn’t about the sermon, it is about meeting each other. The Sunday service helps us to keep track of each other. You meet once a week as minimum and if you are missing, for the others it is a signal to ask how you are doing. Because strangely we rather don’t go if we are having a hard time, but we do like to get support. We often don’t go when we are very busy, when we don’t like it that much any more or encounter an issue in church. At these times we really need the others. Lets pay attention, being sensitive for signals being given by not showing up regularly, and lets support each other when the going gets get tough. That’s what we are church for, isn’t it?

The painting is The Church at Auvers, Vincent van Gogh