Why I Like Going to Church

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with John, one of the fellows who walks at the mall at the same time I do. I asked him if he had a church home, and he told me he and his wife are Catholic. Although she is active in church, he has been taking a “sabbatical” from church for the last thirty or forty years.

Hmm? Say what? “But you still consider yourself a Christian?”

“Oh, yes. I just don’t go to church.”

We ran out of talk time, and I wasn’t sure whether I ought to ask why he’d dropped out, anyhow. I probably wouldn’t understand anything related to the Catholic part of his answer if I had asked.

Nonetheless, our conversation has led me to do a lot of thinking. My wife and I love going to church. We don’t go out of habit or a sense of obligation, but because we enjoy being there. When activities are cancelled because of bad weather, we’re apt to feel cheated.

We don’t have many close friends, but those we have are fellow church members. Yes, of course we enjoy seeing them at church, but that’s not our purpose for attending.

We normally come on Sunday mornings for Bible study and worship and return at mid-afternoon for choir practice, followed by the evening worship service. Then we’re back again on Wednesday night for a time of prayer and Bible study.

What is it about those activities that makes us want to be there? Why aren’t we tempted to take an extended sabbatical the way my friend John has done?

The Bible teaches that church members ought to meet together. Specifically, these two verses from Hebrews 10:24-25 tell us not to avoid meeting together:

22-25 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. (MSG)

Yes, Christians can worship on the golf course, but they’re missing something special by not being in church. But what?

I could rave about the desirability of the preaching and the music at our church. I could speak equally enthusiastically about the Bible studies and the prayer time. And let’s not forget special activities like the Family Fishing Day and the Fall Festival. Although those activities are an important part of our desire to come to church, they’re not the real reasons.

As I look once more at those verses from Hebrews 10, I realize that the real reason for our going to church–the reason we enjoy being there and participating in a variety of activities–is the importance of “spurring each other on,” something that all of those activities contribute to. That “spurring each other on” is like knowing our spiritual batteries are running low and we’re not going to make it much further without a visit to a central charging station where we can encourage other people who also need recharging.

Yes! I think that’s it. When God’s people meet together–with Him at the center of their activities–they experience the kind of recharging they need to survive a few more days in a highly secular world. To survive and thrive until the next available time to return for a fresh spiritual recharge.

Are you active in church now? If not, have you–like John–taken an extended “sabbatical”? How about leaving a comment?

~*~

Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

 

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15 thoughts on “Why I Like Going to Church

  1. We too would be lost without church and our fellow Christian friends. You hit the nail on the head with charging our Spiritual batteries. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Hi Roger, You do not need to go to church to be a Christian! I was raised in an Episcopal school and church. When I got to the point health wise not really able to attend church, I do what my father did when he got sick and not able to go in person. I watch the Mass on T.V. every Sunday morning and during the week, daily Mass. I pray to God every day. You shouldn’t be so judge mental about others not doing what you do. This is America the land of the free to do what we enjoy doing our way. God Bless, in Christian love, Charlene 🙂

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  3. Charlene, I very much regret both that you aren’t physically able to attend church and that you found my post to be judgmental. Because of your limitations, you of all people should appreciate what you’re missing by having to use TV for your worship experience.

    I was trying to emphasize that there is a lot more to being part of a church than worship, music, and Bible study. I feel confident that the apostle Paul (author of the biblical quote I referred to) would agree with me that you are not absent from the rest of the church body by choice–and that’s what he was talking about.

    Furthermore, I regret that because of your genuine inability to participate in church in person, you can’t help missing out on some of the energizing that comes only from being there among fellow believers.

    Do any members of your church come to visit you? That’s one way a church can help those who can’t get out to feel they’re still part of things and to do that vital re-energizing.

    I hope I’ve made some relevant points without causing additional offense.

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  4. I can certainly relate to your walking buddy, the catholic, who is on sabbatical. (lol) Most catholics in the US are on extended sabbaticals. The reasons are obvious. While most folks tend to believe in God they have lost faith in this religious institution because of two things. 1). it is heaped in archaic spiritual ritual and 2). the church’s teachings are in conflict with common sense and the bible.
    My brothers and I were forced into catechism classes as kids. Unbeleivable stories about made up people does not inspire faith. No talk of the bible. Always this saint or the other, mostly made up stuff. And the nuns who taught the classes were so full of self denial stories and perverted views about human relationships it was obvious to kids that they didn’t speak the truth.
    The mass was a droning, uninteresting, almost inconsequential account of life. No practical information. Fantastic baloney served up on a heap of emotional noodles.
    And all those scary statues with blood dripping everywhere, so-called saints who had died horrible deaths or lived in some cave without propper food and clothing. This did not inspire me. How could it? Really, cathoilcism is out of touch with reality and intelligence.
    It’s too little too late with this new pope guy. He seems cool and probbly is. But the damage has been done. People know the rel truth about catholicism. No reinventing a religion so late in the game. Kind like saying, ”wait, really, what we’ve said and done all these centuries to make our faithful miserable was just a mistake. Here’s the truth!” Nope. The sabbatical continues…

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  5. Wow, Tom! I knew you were strongly opposed to Catholicism after having grown up Catholic, but I had no idea your feelings ran this deep. I really appreciate your willingness to share honestly in a public place like this.

    One thing I keep wondering, though, is whether you have ever considered visiting a Protestant or Evangelical church. I’ll bet you could have some fascinating conversations with the pastor of one of those. Although you might run into things there you might disagree with, evaluate everything in terms of what you know about the Bible.

    If you’re interested, the International Mission Board might have personnel serving in your area. I’m sure they’d love to talk with you as well.

    Christianity is the important thing, though. Not Catholic or Protestant or Evangelical. And having what we call a “heart knowledge” of Jesus and not just “head knowledge.” I suspect you would agree with that. But–if not–I’m sure you’ll let me know. *G*

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  6. Well, it may sound negative but I really am not angry or injured or bothered by the church. I do not dislike catholics. Many family members are caths as well as a lot of friends.
    I think I was just pointing out the facts. All that I said is true. 100% true. What stuns me is there are people who still cling to this religion as if it were some divinely inspired church. They fail to see the glaring errors of it’s past and it’s leaders.
    As far as evangelical groups are concerned, I know most of them, I especially distain the rabid evangelical who insists they are the torchbearers of the truth. I steer clear of the folks who speak in tongues, claim they can heal the sick or claim they are divinely mandated to cure the ills of mankind. Why don’t they go to hospitals and graveyards and do their work in an unassuming,discreet manner and free us all from pain?
    As far as protestant groups go I see little difference in many of them from Catholicism. On down the road toward SOuther Baptists and other regional groups I don’t see a clear distinction between them.
    I’ve even looked at the Mormons and had ”elders” (about age 18) stop by with their cartooons to teach me about Joesph Smith and his cohorts.
    I’ve looked into the Jews and international Zionism. Buddists. Hindu religions… all to no avail.

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    • It sounds like you’ve done the kind of spiritual searching many people have been doing over the years. I must admit I’m still not sure exactly where you’ve landed, though.

      As far as any Christian group claiming to be torch bearers of the truth, I can’t blame you for disdaining them. However, since Jesus made the claim to be the way, the truth, and the life and to say that no one comes to the Father except through Him, it seems to me that every Christian group ought to be doing some torch bearing. Nonetheless, I recognize that some people do it more obnoxiously than others. *sigh*

      BTW, Southern Baptists aren’t a regional group in spite of the name.

      I must admit I have mixed feelings about healings and tongues. MaryAnn is a Pentecostal, though, if I recall correctly. Maybe she can respond to what you said there.

      As for the errors of the church both now and over the centuries, I highly recommend two books by Alton Gansky. One is Thirty Events that Shaped the Church. The other is Sixty People Who Shaped the Church. Fascinating reading. Very informative.

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  7. Hello, Tom,

    As a former Catholic, I read your comments with great interest and can relate to how you feel. I grew up in the Catholic Church, attended Catholic school, and even graduated from a Catholic college. I was what you would call “a devout Catholic.” I went to Mass, prayed the Rosary, wore a scapular (do you remember those? 🙂 and a miraculous medal. I refused to eat meat on Fridays, and if I accidentally forgot and took a bite of meat and then remembered, I’d spit it out before swallowing it.

    I did it all.

    I went to Mass regularly out of fear that I would go to hell if I missed Mass. I always thought it was funny that Confession was held only on Saturdays in my church. If anyone missed Mass on Sunday, he’d have to suffer a whole week in torment and pray he wouldn’t die before being able to confess he’d missed Mass.

    Anyway, one Sunday I left Mass feeling empty and cold inside. I thought to myself, “There has to be more to this God thing than this. I feel worse when I leave church than when I enter. It seems like a sham, and I’m just going through the motions.”

    One thing you need to know about me, Tom, is that I hate hypocrisy. So, I cried out to God and said, “God, there’s got to be more to You than this. If there is, then show me.” Or else, as the saying goes, “I’m outa here!” 🙂

    Shortly after that ultimatum to God, I met a young woman at a party who asked me if I had ever been born again, if I had ever accepted Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord.

    Whoa! My senses went on high alert. She was talking “Protestant”, and I’d been taught in Catholic school to stay away from anything Protestant. After all, only Catholics were going to Heaven.

    So, as politely as I could, I said to this young woman, “Look. I respect your beliefs, but they’re not for me. I’m Catholic.”

    She looked at me with the kindest eyes I have ever seen and said, “Okay.” No pressure. No argument. Only love. A love I deeply felt at the time.

    Anyway, shortly after that incident, I met my husband and we got married. A couple of years transpired. I kept going to the Catholic Church. I had everything the world could offer: a great husband, a wonderful career, and financial prosperity.

    But I was empty inside.

    And I was still dissatisfied with the cold, empty, robotic motions of the Mass. And the senseless legalism of the Catholic church.

    I started asking myself questions about what I was being taught. For example, the Catholic Church taught me that I had to earn my salvation by doing good works. Being the logical person that I am, I thought to myself, “If I have to earn my salvation, then Jesus died for nothing.”

    Plus, how could I ever know if I had done enough good works to get me to Heaven. According to what I’d been taught, I wouldn’t know if I’d made the grade until after I died. Now that’s a fun way to live! 🙂

    One night, my husband was working, and I was home alone. I flipped on the TV and surfed through the channels. Nothing good was on, but I did see Billy Graham. Okay, I thought, Billy Graham is a decent guy. There’s nothing better on TV, so I’ll watch him.

    As soon as I began watching, Billy Graham looked straight at me through the TV screen and pointed his finger at me, and said, “You have everything the world could offer. But you’re empty inside.”

    I nearly freaked out. How did he know that’s exactly what I’d been thinking?

    Then he began explaining that I needed to be born again.

    Hmmm. Okay. What does that mean, Mr. Graham?

    Now, before you tune me out, Tom, please hear out a friend and let me explain this controversial term.

    As a former Catholic, I hear you, Tom. Loud and clear! 🙂 I can relate to your disgust, your disillusionment with religion, and your desire to stay away from any church. I can also relate to your very valid questions.

    Here is my take on what’s going on in your life and in the lives of many other Catholics. I’m going to post below some thoughts I wrote to another person asking about Catholicism. I hope my observations shed some light on your dilemma.

    As one who grew up Catholic, I believe that the reason Catholics are feeling so disillusioned is that they have not been taught about the true meaning of salvation.

    The issue of salvation centers on the matter of being born again, as Jesus described to Nicodemus in John 3: 3. In this passage, Jesus said, “Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” In the New Jerusalem Catholic Bible, this verse reads as follows: “Jesus answered: In all truth I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

    So, what is Jesus talking about here?

    Jesus is saying that each of us is born physically into the world with a spirit that is separated from God because of original sin. In order for us to be reconnected with God, we need a new spirit. The only way we can get a new spirit is by believing that Jesus is the Connector between us and God the Father and by asking Jesus to reconnect us to the Father. In other words, when we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are accepting the truth that He alone can reconnect us to God the Father. Jesus reconnects us to God the Father by giving us a new spirit. This new spirit is called the new birth, or being born again.

    So, simply put, Tom, being born again means trusting Jesus to give us a new spirit that will reconnect us with God the Father. This act of trusting Jesus to give us a new spirit is an individual, personal act. In other words, I can’t invite Jesus into your life for you. You have to invite Him yourself.

    To my knowledge, the Catholic Church does not teach the concept of being born again as a personal decision one must make in order to receive the gift of eternal life. In Catholic teaching, one is saved or born again at baptism, which, by the way, is usually administered during infancy. Also, the Catholic Church (at least, as I was taught when a Catholic) teaches the concept that we are saved both by faith and by works. Scripture teaches that we are saved only by faith (Ephesians 2: 8-9) and that we perform good works because we have already been saved and love Jesus.

    In other words, good works will never get us into Heaven. Only faith in Christ’s finished work will get us into Heaven. If good works could get us into Heaven, there would have been no need for Christ to die for us. Moreover, how would we ever know if we had performed enough good works to make the grade? Thus, as I mentioned earlier, when I was growing up, Catholicism taught that we cannot know if we’ve made the grade—i.e, if we are saved—until after we die.

    The Catholic Church also places Catholic Tradition and the writings of the Church Fathers on a par with the Bible, a concept that is not supported by Scripture. I once had a run-in with a nun who was horrified when I told her that we could not put the Bible on the same level as the writings of the Church Fathers. I was teaching CCD at the time, and she had me fired. (P.S. I’ve forgiven her. 🙂

    The key issue, I believe, is whether or not one has truly been born again, not to which denomination one belongs. And whether or not one has been born again is a question only each individual person can answer for himself or herself.

    Catholicism teaches that man is made up of only a body and a soul. Scripture teaches that man is a triune being, just as God is triune, and that man is made of a spirit, a soul, and a body (Please see 1 Thessalonians 5: 23). The spirit is often understood to be the “heart.” The soul, on the other hand, is comprised of the mind, the will, and the emotions.

    The New Jerusalem Bible, a Catholic Bible, says this in Romans 10:9-10: “…if you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and if you believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. It is by believing with the heart that you are justified, and by making the declaration with your lips that you are saved.” The question that arises is, Can an infant at baptism declare with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in his heart that God raised Him from the dead? An infant has no clue what is going on. At infant baptism, adults are making the decision for him. Yet, each of us must make for ourselves the personal decision to be born again.

    Let me close this long discourse with this, Tom: I was a very devout Catholic. All of my Catholic life, I believed in Jesus with my head. I gave Him mental assent. I knew ABOUT Him but I did not know HIM. When I finally learned that I had a spirit as well as a soul, and that my spirit was separated from God because of original sin, and that I needed Jesus to give me a new spirit that could reconnect me with God, I finally understood what it means to be born again. So, at the age of 25, I invited Jesus Christ into my life to be my personal Savior and Lord. I had an unmistakable encounter with Christ. From that moment on, I have never been the same.

    Perhaps I can explain it like this, Tom: If I were to give you a gift, you could accept it or decline it. It would be your choice and your choice alone to make. No one else can make that choice for you. Jesus offers every human being the gift of Himself, which is the gift of eternal life. Each of us must accept it or decline it for ourselves. No one else can make that decision for us.

    That said, salvation depends only on whether or a person has been born again. Unless one is born again, he will not go to Heaven. He will go to Hell.

    If you’d like to discuss this more, you can reach me at drmaryann@maryanndiorio.com. Also, if you’d like to read an article I’ve written about how to get to Heaven, you can find it here:
    http://maryanndiorio.com/articles/how-to-live-forever

    It’s been great chatting with you, Tom (athough I’ve done most of the chatting, LOL! Thanks for your patience! 🙂

    Many blessings,

    MaryAnn Diorio

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  8. Thank you for the sweet intentions of your reply. This is a sign of true Christianity. I am not in a bad place spiritually, actually. I no longer limp on the misconceptions of catholicism. I have a hunch that the truth is not something practiced by organized religions today. In Jesus’ day his little band of people were loosely organized. It wasn’t until Paul was on the scene that church organization was introduced. What I know is that God reads hearts. Simple. I think he prefers one loving, kind, gentle person to an entire church of folks who talk and don’t act. I look at the example of Ruth. Look at her, who she was, and how she became a forebare of Jesus.
    Anyway, thank you MaryAnn!!!

    Roger, didn’t mean to get this post so far off track. But cool!

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