If you ask Christians why they go to church, the answers will vary. We recently went through (some of us are still going through) a time when regular church attendance was not possible. It left many asking the question, “Why do we go to church?”
Why Do Christians Attend Church?
As we sink into fall routines, it’s a good question to ask ourselves. Having a solid answer to this question will serve us well when other reasons we give fade away.
When I was growing up, my main motivation for getting up on Sunday morning was to see my friends. Although fellowship and friendship are important pieces of the Christian life, they are not the reasons we go to church. Relationships can become strained, and difficulties arise. If this is our reasoning for gathering, when friendships fade, so does our reason for attending church.
Another answer given is, “I go to church to become a better person.” Wanting to love and serve our neighbor well is admirable, but it’s not the reason we go to church. If wanting to become better is the sole reason for church attendance, we will constantly be looking at ourselves or the actions of others around us. When we see our failures over and over again, or the failure of others, our reason for attending will disappear.
A third common response for going to church is, “It’s what we do.” Attending church on a regular basis will make it a habit. Bringing your kids also may start a generational legacy of church attendance, but going solely out of habit is not the reason we go to church.
The Creed Explains the Importance of Church
The Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed gives us a clear explanation for what the Church does and the reason why we go to church:
“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen” (p. 144, Luther’s Small Catechism).
“In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true” (p. 144, Luther’s Small Catechism).
The Christian Church is the gathering place of all saints to hear the proclamation, “You are forgiven.”
Benefits and Blessings of Church Attendance
The reasons people give for church attendance are delightful benefits that flow from the purpose of the church. Things such as friends, becoming a better neighbor, and going to church regularly all flow from hearing about the forgiveness we have through Christ’s death and resurrection. This forgiveness comes from both the Word of God and the reception of Christ's body and blood in the supper.
Friendships and fellowship are not the reason we go to church, but the people and the community are beneficial. The fellowship we have with other Christians is different from any other relationship we have. Our friendships in church are not rooted in opinions, political leanings, stages of life, or anything else that will fade away. They are rooted in Christ. Because of this, when relationships become strained, we are to continue gathering together at the altar, confessing our sins, and hearing the declaration of forgiveness.
We will see our failures and the failures of others. Instead of becoming discouraged, we remember that we come to church to be forgiven of our failures, just as our neighbor does. Once again, we are free to go about in everyday service to others around us.
We do not go to church solely out of habit. Attending church regularly will create healthy patterns in your life and those of your children. But we go to church to be reminded of and to receive the forgiveness of sins, and then we eagerly wait until we can attend again.
Although we embrace all of the good that comes from going to church we must remember why the church exists and why we gather together. We are in desperate need of forgiveness and, “In this Christian Church He richly and daily forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.”
Want a refresher on the gifts Christ had for you?