As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? …” (Matthew 11:7)
I do my best not to take passages of Scripture out of context, and pardon me if the above is taken out of context, yet the above question came to mind the other day as I reflected on the reasons people attend church on Sunday mornings.
Jesus asked the crowd the above question concerning John the Baptist. I believe Jesus was implying the people followed John the Baptist because he was more than just a normal prophet; he was the “Elijah who was to come” (Matthew 11: 14). People were drawn to John because of who John served, not because who John was. John served God, and people were drawn to God because of John’s service. They were drawn to God’s presence.
As believers, we serve Jesus. And Jesus should be the answer to the question, “What did you go to church to see?” Yet is it? What do we go to church to see? Worship songs? A moving message? Props on stage? Entertainment for our kids? Friends? All of these are great aspects of a Sunday morning, and I do believe each is an aspect fulfilling God’s command to “not forsake the assembling together”(Hebrews 10:25). Yet for some reason I believe we have also taken this command of God and fashioned it to the whims of man; we’ve equated church with the putting on of a production.
The other day I read a post on Facebook regarding one of my friends “going to an event.” The event she was planning on attending was a church service. Now I fully understand that the event tag is generic for all such posts on Facebook to announce planned activities. Nevertheless, how many of us would admit that we look at church in this way?
When I think of the word “event,” I think of a specific time and place to go enjoy myself for a little while, leave, and then move on with my life. An event happens during a specific period of time but does not require long term commitment or engagement. I even have the right to judge or to rate an event. Based on my experience at an event, I may or may not return or recommend it to anyone. A concert is an event. A conference is an event. A party is an event. Church should not be an event! Church is when fellow believers come together to worship Jesus and to learn from, encourage, and build one another up in Christ. Church is when we come into God’s presence as a community.
Yet each week, rather than showing up to see Jesus, we tend to show up ready to be entertained or to entertain. If we are a musician, a volunteer, or actually on staff, we head to church with the goal in mind of fulfilling our role. We play the songs, we teach the kids, we greet the visitors; we serve with our best foot forward, so to speak. If we are not a volunteer or musician or staff member, we go to church to experience what the “event” has to offer. We hope they sing our favorite song. We hope the sermon applies to us somehow, or at least applies to that person we know needs to hear from Jesus more than we do. We hope the coffee tastes good and someone brought donuts. Then whether we served or were served, we leave church, evaluate the experience, and then move forward with life until the next time.
But what should be our reason for going to church? What should be our motivation for rising up early on a Sunday morning? Jesus! Jesus is the way the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). He is all and is in all (Colossians 3:11). There should be no other reason for going to church than to see Jesus–to fellowship with our Creator and our Savior. God calls us to worship Him. He is not looking for perfection or for a production; He’s looking for hearts like His–hearts ready and willing to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Yes, all of the aforementioned activities are certainly good and even necessary, but none should be our main or sole reason for going to church.
We need to go to church to see Jesus. For as we seek Him first, as we set our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith, everything else will fall into place (see Matthew 6:33 and Hebrews 12:2). Are you a musician? Play for Him; you’ll sound beautiful. Volunteer? Serve Him; people will see Him in you. In the congregation? Worship Him; the music and the message will minister to you.
But most of all, when you leave, don’t just rate what happened or didn’t happen then move on with your life. Live it. Love God and love people all throughout the week. Live the words of Jesus: “…Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Therefore as you go to sleep Saturday, and as you wake up to head to church Sunday, ask God to show you what you are going to church to see. And if He shows you anything other than going to see Him, simply ask Him to forgive you and then refocus your attentions on Him. Then forgetting those things which are behind, press forward into the presence of Jesus; worship Him in spirit and in truth.
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24)