In “How to Go to Church (part 1)” I presented the idea that it is possible to go to church poorly. I also offered three tips on how to go to well. In this post I want to offer three more. Go to church…
unified with others.
Near the beginning of Jesus’ longest recorded sermon, he says in Matthew 5:23, 24, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”1 Bringing a gift to the altar was a reference to bringing an offering to the temple – the place of God’s presence before the existence of the church. This is not dissimilar to what happens when you go to church. You bring your gifts/offerings of song, prayer, learning, money, mutual edification, and use of spiritual gifts before God. Thus, Jesus’ words are applicable to your attendance of church.
If you are at church and remember that somebody has something against you, you should leave and seek reconciliation. Two things that may be obivious are worth stating: 1) You should try to seek reconciliation with people before you go to church. 2) Sometimes people may be unwilling to reconcile with you. Jesus doesn’t say to leave the altar and come back when reconciliation has taken place; Jesus tells us to seek reconciliation – sometimes it won’t happen. One Sunday, right before church started, I was convicted by my remembrance that somebody in our congregation was upset with me about something. I realized that to begin worshiping without first seeking reconciliation would be wrong. I quickly found the person and offered a quick attempt at reconciliation. The person was kind, but we didn’t reconcile. My worship was distracted, but I do believe I had fulfilled my obligation in the attempt. On other occasions my wife and I have had arguments before church. Even if our pre-church responsibilities are calling, we always find a minute (sometimes second) to make sure that we have forgiven each other – on certain occasions this comes only through a knowing grab of each others hands.
Another important thing to notice about Jesus’ words is that he doesn’t say “If you have a problem with somebody else…” His focus is on other people having a problem with us. This is much more difficult because sometimes people have a problem with us for stupid, wrong, or sinful reasons. Yet, Jesus calls us to seek reconciliation before we do church.
The whole of Scripture supports the idea that unity is important for church and going to it. Another passage is worth quoting because it is so important to this issue. 1 Corinthians 11:17-20 says, “In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat…” Paul tells the church in Corinth that their meetings (a.k.a. church services) do more harm than good and that their celebration of communion doesn’t even count as communion because of the disunity among them. I wonder how many churches Paul would say this same thing about today.
The unity you should strive for when attending church needs to go beyond avoiding anger or having others be angry at you. 1 Peter 3:8 describes the type of unity you should aim for. It says, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” Far too often churches aim for avoiding disunity, but fail to strive for like-mindednss and genuine love. Break this mold. Work hard to be united to the people you go to church with. Of course, if you are visiting a church for the first time this is impossible. However, if you have gone to a church for a longer period of time, but are not connected to anyone else in the church, you are not going to church correctly. Change this. Join a small group, go out to coffee with someone, get in the men’s/women’s ministry, or serve. Go to church unified. One way to become more unified is to go to church…
Honestly, if you go to church periodically, it is going to benefit you far less than if you go regularly. The first church met together everyday (Acts 2:46). Furthermore, Hebrews 10:24, 25, commands, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (italics added). If your habit is to go to church every now and then, a couple of times a year (think Easter and Christmas), or once a year (think Easter), you are doing a disservice to yourself and not following the heart of the command to not give up meeting together. Bringing yourself to consistent attendance at church and will be easier if you go to church…
having spent time focused on God during the rest of the week.
To be honest, I can’t point to a Scriptural reference that describes the importance of spending time focused on God upon church attendance (If you have one, leave a comment below). Instead, this final point comes from my own personal experience. When I am focused on God during a week through prayer, Bible reading, and worship, I find myself much more able to have a meaningful interaction with him when I gather with other believers in his presence. It is difficult to get into the spirit of studying God’s Word, prayer, and praise music when I haven’t thought or interacted with God much during the rest of the week. Perhaps it is because I feel like a fake. Somewhere inside of me it feels like I’m demonstrating a heart that says, “I’m with other people now, I better act like I really care about God.”
I genuinely believe that going to church in the ways I have described over these two posts will benefit you and glorify God. Try living these tips out. Going to church…
- not focused on whether it is good or bad.
- focused on interacting with God.
- with the goal of benefiting others.
- unified with others.
- having spent time focused on God during the rest of the week.
I would love it if you would share the results of following this advice. I would also love it if you shared more tips on how to go to church. Leave a comment below.[bra_border_divider top=’20’ bottom=’20’]
1. All Scripture is NIV.