Over the last week or so, well-known Christian author and blogger Donald Miller got himself into hot water by revealing in a blog post that he doesn’t attend church regularly. As of this writing, there are 451 comments to that particular post. It caused Miller to write a much longer post to discuss further. Both are worth reading, though I think Miller’s thinking is a bit muddied.
Miller’s original post reveals a certain self-centeredness, something that popped up recently in a CNN article by another well-known blogger, Rachel Held Evans with regard to what Millennials are looking for in church (see my response to her).
Both talk about what church gives them. Isn’t there more to church than being fed or having my needs met?
I can write about this because I’ve held that attitude in the past. How easy it is to sit in the pew (or chair), be entertained with good music, and then get a great sermon and feel like “I’ve done church”. I get empowered a bit, can check off that box for the week and get on with things.
There have been times in my life when I was in a spiritual valley and needed that–I honestly wasn’t capable of much more. I have found, though, that as I’ve matured as a Christian–and spent time around many strong believers–that my attitude has changed.
Here then are my reasons for attending church:
We are commanded to come together in fellowship, for a reason. The writer of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament says, “[L]et us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (chapter 10, verses 24 and 25). Meeting regularly is a way to encourage our brothers and sisters–it is a way to serve our fellow believers.
It is dedicated time to worship God. I find that I need to make time for things that are important, and it’s helpful to do it in a dedicated place. Much of my profession could be done at home, but I find I’m far more efficient in my office–I’m better able to give my company what they’re paying me for. Similarly, I find that I am better able to give God the honor he deserves if I clear my schedule for him.
It is dedicated time to serve seekers. At least in America, churches aren’t just places where believers gather. Seekers come, too. Attending church is an opportunity to serve seekers and to point them to Christ. That opportunity is a big deal. If someone is interested enough to get out of bed and sit among strangers, it’s important to be there for them.
Of course, we must not see the church as the only place for these activities. At my previous job, I worked around several other Christians, and in many ways I felt coming to work was like going to church. As we worked our secular job we encouraged one another, shared Bible verses and most importantly had the (invited) opportunity to share our faith with interested co-workers. We can (and must) engage the world and not wait for them to come to us. Nevertheless, church ought to be the launchpad for every week.
Donald Miller is brave for sharing his opinion with the world–and taking flak for it. Hopefully, he’ll reconsider and visit church more often.