Church: Hospital or Country Club?

Church: Hospital or Country ClubWhy do people go to church? Ask a group of “Christians” and you’ll get many different answers: To worship and praise Jesus freely in community. To learn what God teaches us in the Bible. To meet new people. To hang out with friends. Because it’s what we’re supposed to do. Because my parents make me go. Because I’m desperate and it’s the only place I know that might give me hope.

We recently celebrated Easter, the primary holy day of the Christian faith. Church attendance swelled across the world. But many of the people who ventured out on Easter Sunday won’t be coming back again for months, if at all.

Why do people NOT go to church?

Ask a group, and again the answers vary widely. It’s boring. It’s hard to go to church alone. Christians act like they have it all together, but behind closed doors they’re just as messed up as the rest of us. If anyone knew the truth about my life they wouldn’t want me there. All they want is money and I don’t have any to give. They’re like a clique and I don’t fit in. I don’t get anything out of it.

Our reasons to go or not go usually stem from past experiences. Many people have had bad experiences at church or with people who say they’re Christian, and now religion is something they’re not sure they can trust, and for good reason. You may know someone with these hesitations.

For anyone struggling with the competing desire to know God and the fear of religion or the people in it, here are two things to consider:

1. RELIGION (with its rituals and rigid “to do” lists) is completely different than a loving, intimate RELATIONSHIP with our Savior, Jesus Christ. True Christianity is a personal relationship with Christ.

2. A healthy church community is founded on God’s Word as they continually seek God’s truth, wisdom and guidance. Their primary desire is to be the hands and feet of Jesus so that others can hear the Gospel message, enter into a loving, trusting relationship with Christ, and then grow in that relationship.

Christians should be the first to admit their desperate need of a Savior. We’re sinners not saints.

Everyone falls short of the glory of God, Christian and non-Christian, those who look like they have it together and those who don’t. We’re all in the same boat––and when that boat goes down, it doesn’t matter if we were sitting in first class or working below deck. Each and every one of us will meet our Maker and have to give account for our life and our choices. None of us is better than another.

Christians are brothers and sisters who make mistakes, say and do the wrong things, but ultimately seek forgiveness as we turn from our old selves and move forward to new life in Christ.

As Christians, we’re called to share life in loving community so we can encourage and strengthen one another. Church should not be a country club. It’s not exclusive. It’s not for people who have life figured out. It’s not for the “good” ones.

To be honest, church is more like a hospital and hostel.

It’s for those who are hurting and those who are lost. It’s for people traveling the journey of life seeking truth. It’s for people like me––sinners who want to turn from the brokenness of our past and walk forward in the hope of new life and the light of eternity.

If you’re not part of a healthy, Christian community, I encourage you to pray about it and then try a new church this Sunday. It’s never too late to take a step in a new direction. Find a vibrant community preaching straight from the Bible, singing songs of praise to our risen Lord, and reaching out in love to others.

For those who are a part of Christian community, let’s continue to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ, encouraging one another and spurring each other on in our service to others. And let’s genuinely welcome wounded and weary travelers into our community by showering them with acceptance, hospitality and love.

After all, the church is a hospital, a place of healing and restoration for sinners. It’s not a country club for saints.

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another––and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25

Let’s Talk: Why do you go or not go to church?

May I pray?

Jesus, we’re saved by Your grace given freely on the cross as You died for our sins and then rose to new life. We cannot save ourselves. We’re not saints resting on our laurels. We’re sinners You have ransomed for eternity. And now it’s our joy to grow in relationship with You as we open our doors to the hurting and the lost. Help us today to shine Your light of hope and love into the lives of others. And for those who feel alone, please lead them this week in their search for a healthy community of Christ-followers. Amen.

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