I don’t need a special building, a special day or a special time to do it. I don’t come into the presence of God when I enter a church building and I don’t leave his presence when the service is over.
Since the Day of Pentecost, all believers have the Holy Spirit living in us from the moment of salvation, so we carry his presence with us. This means that every act of my life, whether alone or in the company of others, can and should be an act of worship.
But I still go to church every weekend. And I would go every weekend, even if I wasn’t a pastor.
I don’t go to church to worship Jesus. I go to church to worship Jesus with other people. Because I need to worship Jesus in the company of others. We all do.
I need to worship Jesus along with
- People I know
- People I don’t know
- People who know me
- People I share life with
- People I share common beliefs with
- People I disagree with
- People who love me anyway
- People I have to love anyway
Church Is Not a Solo Sport
Donald Miller is a writer I admire. He’s made a lot of waves lately with a couple blog posts stating that he doesn’t go to church very often because he feels like he gets more spiritual nourishment elsewhere. To be fair, his feelings are more nuanced than I can express in a paragraph, so I won’t say he’s wrong about this. But my spiritual experiences both inside and outside the church are very similar to his, yet I’ve come to the opposite conclusion. The more I grow in Christ, the more I need the church – and the more they need me.
I don’t always like the fact that I need others so much. To tell the truth, I don’t always like them. And they don’t always like me. But we do need each other.
There are times I wish “all I need is me and Jesus” was true. But it’s not. It never is.
It’s not church when I’m alone. No matter how special or holy the moment may be with just me and Jesus – and I, like Miller, have plenty of them – it’s only church when there’s at least one other believer experiencing it with me. That’s church. And church matters.
Yes, I know that going to a church service is no guarantee that a real church experience will actually happen. But I do know this. Not going to church guarantees that this vital element of our spiritual life will not happen.
The body of Christ can’t be a body if we’re not meeting, worshiping and ministering together.
The Nudge of a Healthy Small Church
This is yet another reason why I’m such a proponent of healthy Small Churches. Because of its size, a healthy Small Church nudges me into relationships I might not seek out in a bigger crowd. (Please note the critical word “healthy” in the previous and following sentences.)
It’s not that you can’t have close relationships in a bigger church. If you find your heart and spirit more nourished in a big church, that’s great. Most big churches got big because they worked very hard to foster those kinds of relationships. But if you go to a bigger church, you need to add an extra layer to your church experience by going to a small group.
In a healthy Small Church, those essential aspects of worshiping and fellowshipping together with people we know, happen during our weekend church experience. Plus, a Small Church places in me in a situation where I find myself hanging out and worshiping with people I probably wouldn’t seek out in a larger crowd. I need that extra nudge. A lot of us need it.
None of us is strong enough to do this on our own. That’s why, when Jesus and the early church worshiped and ministered, the smallest unit they ever had was two people. Usually more.
Over two decades ago, Thomas Peters, who wrote the ground-breaking business book, In Search of Excellence, told business executives about the importance of flesh-and-blood meetings when he advised them to “fly across the country for a five-minute meeting.”
The reason? Being face-to-face matters. If it’s true in business, it’s even more true in church.
There are aspects of how we relate to each other and how we relate to God together that can only happen when I see your face, hug your neck and take notice of the subtle crack in your voice as you try not to cry when I ask how your kids are doing.
Small Churches have a unique opportunity to take advantage of this. Again, it’s not that we’re more friendly than our big church counterparts. But because we see a smaller set of faces week after week, we’re better able to know each other and be ready to catch those subtle hints.
There are too many lone wolf Christians and lone wolf pastors out there. In both big churches and small ones. And it’s not healthy.
We don’t just need Jesus. We need each other.
So what do you think? Why do you go to church?
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