4 Surprising Reasons You Need Church (and Church Needs You)

This isn’t that article that simply tells you what the Bible says about going to church and then expects you to run to the nearest pew. Sure, God’s got a bunch to say about why you should join with other believers on a regular basis, and they’re all solid reasons. Read those articles first.

But let’s take a look at some purely practical reasons that gathered worship makes so much sense. You didn’t think God would make such a big deal out of something if He didn’t intend it to be beneficial, right?

Here are 4 reasons you need church (and the church needs you):

1. You’d probably just end up wasting that time anyway.

Let’s just be honest here. When people skip church (or don’t go at all), Sunday morning doesn’t magically morph into a productivity bonanza or a God-focused retreat. We laze around, read, cut grass, watch Netflix, rush our kids to fifty different sporting events that we let them sign up for, or just sleep in. Maybe we throw some Bible in there, but that’s only if we feel super guilty.

Sure, we have lots of plans of what we’ll do with this “freed up” time that we’re not spending in church, but that rarely ever happens. Usually, we just veg out or stress out.

That’s not to say that going to a bad church won’t waste your time; it would. But when you put yourself in the company of other real worshippers, you’ve focused your mind on something far grander than your binge watching session:

“The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake.” Psalm 99:1

Earth-shaking, world-changing God? Yes, please.

Worship with others pushes us out of the continuity of regular life and our mundane plans and brings us face to face with our Creator. We worship best together.

2. You need to know that other people struggle just like you.

On our own, we humans have a tendency to assume that no one is suffering or struggling in the same way we are: “This job is the worst thing ever.” “No one else gets completely derailed by these ads on the Internet that keep popping up.” “My life has to be the lamest ever.”

We get trapped in our myopic view of the world because suffering and shame bend us inwards (the Elijah syndrome, 1 Kings 18:22). The more we struggle, the more we just want to hold it in and hide it away.

Church puts you face to face with other sinners just like you. Sure, you may look around at first and think that these people don’t struggle like you, but they do. They’re liars, misfits, and hypocrites—all in the process of being transformed.

You need close proximity with other believers (both mature and newbies) to pull your focus outward, away from your own struggles. That’s the point where you realize you weren’t meant to carry all this weight alone:

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

You can go it alone, but that’s an awful lot of baggage to lug around yourself—especially when you don’t have to.

3. You need the mess (because you’re part of it).

Most of the time, people like to say they don’t need more drama in their lives. And if there’s one thing you can say for certain, it’s that church has drama. There’s loads of it.

But don’t be so quick to brush it off simply because of that. After all, there’s lots drama in your house, too. Why? Because people are there, and the equation is pretty simple: people = drama. You can’t escape the messiness of life simply by avoiding church. Since drama is pretty much a guarantee, the real difference is in what we do with it.

Honestly, you need some sanctified mess.

Not all churches are healthy when it comes to dealing with “junk.” This is true. But what happens when messy people get thrown together under the transforming power of Christ is something amazing:

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

When it comes to the mess being put right, “we” always works better than “me.” On your own, you rarely have the courage and endurance to do what needs to be done. Just be honest. You get tripped up along the way. You don’t follow through with that “sure-fire goal” you had to change. You’ve got no one to spot for you.

Together, though, we messy people can push each other toward being more like Jesus.

4. You stink at some stuff.

Not all of us are naturally gifted at sharing what we’re passionate about. Not all of us can teach and explain difficult concepts. Not all of us know how to organize something. We’ve got skills, yes, but we’ve got weak areas, too.

For that reason, you’ll never see a big company like Google plug a master accountant into the app development team or a marketing guru in with the code crunchers. You can pretty much bet that the results would be less than awesome because people had been placed where they just don’t fit.

We Christians have skills, too. Yours are solid, but not the same as mine or anyone else’s. When we try to go all solo-warrior in our Christian walk, we’ve pretty much said we can handle the whole Great Commission ourselves. All of it. We’ve got everything we need to reach the whole world for Christ—no church required.

Then again, you’ve got to admit that some Christians just have a way with sharing truth from the Bible. Some can pray like nobody’s business. Some have no qualms about spouting their faith even to hardened atheists. And others write songs that just get it. These are messy, awesome Christians. And we go great together.

By yourself, though, you’re just an eyeball:

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (2 Corinthians 12:17–18)

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The Wonderful Gift of… Suffering?

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” (Philippians 1:29-30)

Philippians 1:29 is one of those verses that makes me stop and shake my head in disbelief. Paul tells the readers of this letter that suffering has been granted to them. Granted? Really? As in, “Here you go. Here’s a big ol’ heaping helping of suffering”?

If you dig into the Greek behind that phrase, you’ll uncover the word charizomai. This word usually implies something that’s freely given for someone else’s benefit. In fact, Paul uses this same word to talk about how God forgave our sins (Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 4:32); how we are to forgive others freely (2 Corinthians 2:7, 10); and how God bestows gifts or titles because of His love and power (as in Philippians 2:9). In Luke 7:21, the same word shows how Jesus gave sight to the blind. Free, beneficial gifts.

All those are well and good. So, why would Paul add something crazy like suffering to these other good things? Surely, he has to see that suffering doesn’t fit in the same category as healing the blind and forgiving sin. They don’t even share the same zip code. Right?

Well, Paul’s example shows us that they do. Right near the end of Acts (chapter 27), Paul gets stuck with a stubborn centurion who can’t wait to get to Rome and a ship’s pilot who’s happy to oblige. Paul warns that such a trip will end badly. They ignore him (word to the wise: never ignore Paul). When they run into a storm, things look really, really bad. People are throwing supplies overboard, faces are green, and hope goes buh-bye.

About that time, Paul gets to give his “I told you so” speech, and in that speech, he uses our old friend charizomai. An angel had appeared to Paul and told him, “God has granted you all those who are sailing with you” (Acts 27:24). God had granted him seasick sailors (who wanted to kill the prisoners, mind you) and a stubborn centurion who refused to listen to sense. What kind of gift is that? God could have granted him a miraculous trip to a nearby island—perhaps somewhere warm and not so stormy.

But if that had been the case, Paul wouldn’t have done the other part of this verse: “you must stand before Caesar.” If Paul had been whisked away, in fact, we wouldn’t have the books of Acts or Luke (that chapter is filled with “we” from our good doctor friend who also survived the storm); the sailors and centurion wouldn’t have seen God’s mighty act to save every single one of them; and Paul wouldn’t have taken the gospel to the most important city in the Roman Empire. God gave Paul the gift of their lives so that the gospel would bulldoze on.

And that brings up back to Paul’s suggestion that suffering is granted—a gift. Quite likely, Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians not long after being smashed into the rocks. Despite the messy trip (or perhaps precisely because of it), the message of Christ spread throughout the royal guard and people all over Rome. Other Christians got some backbone to speak more boldly (Philippians 1:13-14). Things went boom all over.

The gift of suffering, for Paul and for us, doesn’t seem much like a gift—at first. But the vantage point makes all the difference. Suffering that comes for the sake of Christ always produces a harvest of awesome. That’s because, in addition to the suffering, God also grants us the strength to endure and the chance to see the gospel take root.

And that’s why Paul can truthfully say, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things” (Philippians 3:8). That’s not empty boasting from a beaten down man. That’s the triumphant cry of someone who sees what lies ahead.