I live in the Bible belt, which means in my city there are more churches than mattress stores. Crazy, right?
It’s an area where the idea of going to church every week (or at least several times a month) is still seen by many as a tradition worth holding onto. But if you ask why it’s important to go to church, most people will struggle for a few minutes before forming an answer like, “Because God wants us to.”
When tradition takes the place of passion we lose our “why.” We no longer know the reason for doing something. We just do it because we’ve always done it.
And when you have lost your “why”, it becomes easy for wrong ideas to creep into the tradition and cheapen the experience.
Here are 3 wrong ideas I think many of us have about church.
WRONG IDEA #1: WORSHIP IS WHEN WE SING.
I totally understand the confusion. We often refer to music in church as “worship music”, we call the singer the “worship leader”, and even the band is the “worship team”. But worship is more than just music.
The word worship is translated from Old English as “worth-ship”. It is telling God with our words and actions what He is worth to us. So when it comes to going to church, worship isn’t just the 20-30 minutes we spend singing songs.
The whole church experience is worship.
We worship by giving generously, by listening attentively to the Word of God being preached, and even by participating in the awkward moment when you have to say hello and shake hands with someone you don’t know (the Bible calls it “fellowship”).
WRONG IDEA #2: THE MINISTERS ARE ON STAGE.
When you go to a concert or a movie or any other kind of show, the point is to sit back, relax and be entertained. Sure, you might clap or laugh here and there if you feel so inclined, but you ultimately have no responsibility there.
Church is different.
It can sometimes look similar because there is usually a band and a speaker like other familiar forms of entertainment, but here’s the big difference.
At first glance, it looks like the ministers are just the people on the stage. They are the ones playing music, or preaching, or praying, etc. But those are not the only ministers.
The Bible calls all of us “priests” (1 Peter 2:9). You are a minister. And you minister in two ways.
First, you minister to God when you worship. Our worship blesses Him. He doesn’t need our worship, but He does invite us to join in because He wants a relationship with us.
And second, we also minister to each other. Even when we sing, we are not only singing to God. We are also singing together for the purpose of encouraging one another. Eph. 5:19 says that we should, “[speak] to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” We are all ministers, which is why we all need to come and engage.
When we go to church we should be participants, not spectators. The people on the stage are not the only ministers. We are too.
WRONG IDEA #3: I SHOULD ONLY BE FOCUSED ON THE LORD.
It’s a bit strange if you think about it.
The word church means “assembly.” It is a gathering of God’s people to worship Him. Sometimes we call it “corporate worship.”
Yet it seems like we often treat it like anything but a gathering when we come. How many times have we been told, even by the pastor or music leader, to “just focus on the Lord and don’t be distracted by the people around you?”
That seems like an odd goal for corporate worship though, don’t you think?
The people around you should not be seen as a distraction to focusing on the Lord. On the contrary, they are the whole point. There is no reason to come to the “gathering” or “corporate worship” if you’re goal is to try really hard to only think about you and Jesus and nobody else.
I can stay home and do that.
The Bible says that we are to encourage each other (1 Thess. 5:11), teach each other (Col. 3:16), bless each other (Prov. 11:25), and even sing to each other (Col. 3:16). Engaging with other people isn’t just permissible at church. It’s the whole reason we come. If you don’t do that, you didn’t really have church.
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