Thursday, July 24, 2008

Do I Have to Go to Church?

I was thinking today about why people come to church. What motivates them to show up each week? This is something many parents are forced to deal with because the older their kids get, the more they seem to ask, "Do I have to go to church?"

I've been answering this question in our home for years now, but I have an advantage over most people. I just tell my kids that they have to go because I'm a pastor and my pay gets docked every time one of them doesn't show up. This used to work, but lately, this answer has not worked so well. My kids are getting older now and they're buying less and less of my lame answers to their serious questions. So, I now have to wrestle along with other parents with how to answer this question. And to be honest, it's one of those nagging questions that I've always wrestled with myself.

Do I really have to go to church? What's the point? Can't I just stay home, sleep in, and listen to a good preacher on the radio and fulfill my weekly church duty that way?

Well, I've been doing quite a bit of reading lately on the concept of worship. I told you a couple of weeks ago from the pulpit that the elders are wrestling with understanding what true worship is with the goal of reviving the concept of worship churchwide in the near future. Today I spent most of the afternoon reading the book Worship: Rediscovering the Missing Jewel by Ronald Allen and Gordon Borror. I've had this book on my shelf for years. As a matter of fact, I've been interested in reading it for quite some time as Gordon Borror was a professor of Del Walth (our former minister of worship) in seminary. Gordon actually came to Foothills and served on Del's ordination council back in 2000.

Anyway, I came across a quote in the book today that really helped me understand anew why I - and you too! - need to go to church on Sunday. Gordon quoted from another book called Jubilate by Donald Hustad. Here's what Hustad says about the Sunday morning worship service:

The worship service is rehearsal for life. It outlines the dialog which goes on constantly between God and believers, giving God's Word and suggesting the response He wants to hear - response which includes our adoration, our confession, our thanksgiving, our dedication, and our petition. Worship also offers us an opportunity to give ourselves to God in all of life; in token of this, in the worship service we give Him our praise and adoration, we give Him our offerings of money and also of our service in ministry.

Finally, worship is becoming like God in our total personhood - body, emotions, mind, and will. The worship service allows us to exercise every part of ourselves, in order that our bodies might be God's temple, that our spirit might be moved by His spirit, that our mind might be the mind of Christ, and that our will might be one with the will of God.

True worship then is really all there is to being a Christian, and the worship service is important because of what it represents as a microcosm.

Good stuff, huh? So the next time you wrestle with whether or not to get up and go to church on Sunday, remember that going to church is like going to a dress rehearsal for life as a worshipper of the Lord. And the next time your kids ask you if they have to go to church, tell them the same. But, if they're still young and gullible, have some fun and make something up.

See you Sunday!


Brian said...

As you know, Nick (then 16) was away from home this past year to play hockey. During that time away, he rarely had the opportunity to go to church at all due to the hockey schedule (games and road trips were almost a given on Sundays).

Now he's back home. Initially, he struggled some to transition back into life at home. But I think on the question of church, that time away helped him to realize what he had missed and why it is important to go to church. He now attends faithfully (the youth service is on Sunday evenings, so it helps that he can still sleep past noon and go!), and has even volunteered on Saturday evenings to help in the Junior High services.

I wouldn't recommend sending your kids away as a technique to convince teenagers the value of going to church. But I think in Nick's case it helped to renew his passion for church and for God.

And if you're looking for less dramatic ways to influence your teens to go to church, you might try withholding gas money or use of the car. That seems to be the #1 motivator in my teen's life!

Or do as Mike suggests and try the logical, rational approach of explaining to your teenager the real reasons we worship. (Logical and rational used in the same sentence as teenager!?!).


Darcy said...

Question, what does this mean: "the elders are wrestling with understanding what true worship is with the goal of reviving the concept of worship churchwide in the near future." ??

I hate to admit it, but I think we were tiling our floors around that time and missed church - so this is the first I've heard of it.

Mike Potter said...

"The elders are wrestling with understanding what true worship is with the goal of reviving the concept of worship churchwide in the near future."


The word "worship" seems to be pretty misunderstood these days. We call Sunday morning the "worship service" as if that's the one time each week we are to worship the Lord. We call the music during a Sunday service "worship" as if singing on Sunday morning is the only way we can worship the Lord.

Worship is so much's a way of life not an event, and the elders are trying to "revive" the meaning for ourselves so that we can "revive" the meaning for the rest of the church in the coming days.

Rod Pauls said...

I'm glad to hear the elders are taking some time to think and pray about our approach to corporate worship at Foothills. I have felt for some time that there is a lot that we could be exploring in the area of worship... liturgy, multi-ethnic, traditional, gospel, etc, etc. I think we are guided as a church by Rev. 7:9, but I wonder if our approach to worship could reflect that vision a little more... what if we sang songs in different languages? or tried out different styles of prayer? or allowed people from different ethnic backgrounds to lead us? Wouldn't that be exciting?

Evonne said...

I, too, have been pondering worship. I know that I long for a deeper understanding. I want formal liturgy, a rootedness to the orthodox Christian faith that has gone before me and a reaching out to those worshipers beyond me. What an awesome thought to realize that when I pray the hours, the prayers that I pray from books like the Common Book of Prayer, are being prayed before me, with me, and after me, so that I am a small part of a great chorus of prayer to the Father! I have been greatly helped in worship as I have prayed the Psalms and prayers from the Divine Hours and The Valley of Vision. As a child of the late 60's and the 70's, I was tutored in the "deeper experience of spontaneity". The freedom to worship "as the Spirit moved" was the only legitimate course to true worship. And, yes, there were times of remarkable spiritual experience. But now I can see that we were short-sighted. Throwing off "ritual and regimented tradition" left us to measure the depth of our faith by our latest spiritual experience and we often became experience junkies. All churches have liturgy, even the traditional altar call at the end of each service is liturgical. Whatever we do time and again is liturgy, even if we think we are being spontaneous as we set aside a time to make room for the Spirit to move. The faith and practice of the orthodox Christian church, The Apostles' Creed, The Gloria, The Lord's Prayer, The Psalms, the great hymns, etc. root us to one another, enlarge our understanding and engulf us in something larger than ourselves and our own experiences. I believe that these practices provide a ready help in time of trial and deepen community life. Perhaps we will move slower and more thoughtfully, but I believe more effectively too, like Tolkien's Ents, plunging their roots deep into the nourishing soil as they purposefully marched forward, their branches stretched and toward the sky and entwined with one another toward the destruction of the enemy and the glory of the King.