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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Make Changes, Not War

Excuses ooze out our pores. Even typing this article, several have already planted themselves firmly in my can’t-finish zone: coffee needs to be drunk and sports news needs to be checked.

Being a leader means not only blasting through our own reticence to change, but also undermining the excuses of others. And they’ll have plenty of them. Just suggest something God-sized and wait for the challenges to roll in.

By change, however, I don’t necessarily mean paradigm shifts or seismic cataclysms, though those work too. Change can be as simple as moving from a state of non-existence to out-of-the-head being—such as decorating the stage or putting together a study booklet on your “No Fat on This Temple” series. Scale doesn’t seem to matter because excuses are size agnostic.

Both church name changes and switching bathroom soaps can face an eerily similar uphill battle over the status quo. And that’s mainly because of excuses. One reason for making a change usually slams into twenty oblique reasons the change can’t happen. Some of those reasons make sense, but some are simply ways to sidestep the cost or effort involved.

For those types of excuses, you can undercut them before they pile up.

1. Care about it.

A lack of passion gives off an odor—a subtle one that excusers can smell. Unless you’ve sold yourself on the idea, you’ll rarely package it effectively for others. If you don’t have time to lay out the vision and a real desire to see the change happen, keep it to yourself. Presenting something new requires energy—and probably hand gestures to add emphasis (can’t hurt). You’ll need the momentum that passion affords.

2. Swap seats.

Once you’ve revved yourself up, flip the table around. Think carefully through the types of questions you’ll receive. If someone on your team or board always asks about costs, know the general numbers. Providing quick, reasoned answers to objections or concerns makes your vision that much more possible. Of course, you may need some help on this, which leads us to …

3. Look for a doppelganger.

Sure, you’re creative, but you’re not one-of-a-kind creative. Someone else has probably already done something similar to what you’d like to see happen. Get on the phone or shoot out the email and find out who’s done it and what they faced. Your context is unique, but getting answers from a veteran gives you confidence that this really will work and makes you look researched. At least, that’s the goal.

4. Pick off a few.

If you go into a meeting with the entire team and lay out a sudden change, you might as well wear a helmet because you’ll slam into a wall. Talk individually with a few key leaders about the issue well before the meeting. Sell them on the why so that they’ll back you up when the time comes to tell everyone. Bonus points if you can make them want to champion the idea themselves. Regardless, you don’t want it to be you against the room.

5. Pull the rug out.

When (not if) the excuses hit, be prepared to blunt them. If you know technology will be a concern, have someone ready who can either show your team how to make the idea happen or who can do it for you. If it’s money, find cheaper alternatives or people willing to volunteer time or resources.

6. Listen—for real.

Even though you go into a meeting armed and dangerous, resist the urge to triumphantly squelch the excuses you’ve already considered. Listen carefully first and then parry—thoughtfully. Even if you have a good answer, people steel up when the words traveling from their mouths bounce off your head.

7. Be willing to time travel.

Sometimes you’ll realize the timing’s off. Even though you’ve prayed and prepared for every conceivable argument, other peoples’ minds aren’t necessarily swayed by your ability to lay out the vision. And if you plow through that type of environment, you’ll likely lose buy-in. Before the idea fizzles, punt, regroup, meet individually with those who have questions, and try again later.

What tips do you have for facing resistance to needed change?

What Is the Church?

As I’m continuing to scheme and read, I came across this definition of church that I couldn’t have put better myself. Enjoy:

“The local church is a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to Scripture, they organize under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of baptism and Communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, and scatter to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission as missionaries to the world for God’s glory and their joy.” Mark Driscoll and Dr. Gerry Breshears, Vintage Church