Why Do We Have Church?

— Aaron

A friend of mine asked me this question:

Here is a question for you and it is one I have been pondering for a long time, why do we have church? By church I don’t mean The Church.

And so here’s my answer:I think we have church from the example of the New Testament, early church history, and from the many examples of good that its done for people to meet regularly. I think most everyone who follows Jesus agrees that communal meals, teaching, prayer, discussion, fellowship, discipleship and worship are good things to have happen within The Church. And in order to have them happen sometime, we have church.

Let me make the disclaimer: I have a lot of issues with big churches.

Now if most/all of those activities aren’t happening with some degree of regularity at church meetings, I think the church is probably focusing on the “easy” activities to make happen, and neglecting the rest. This is probably unhealthy. I think a lot of people have a bad definition of church. (Not to fault them – they only know what they’ve been taught, and we sinful humans muck things up pretty steadily – creating constant and often neglected need to repent and let God form our minds, hearts, and our organizations.)

As to why people would go to a warehouse, with 1200 other people, stand up, sing some songs, sit down, listen to some teaching and then leave without any two-way human interaction (aside from some awkward “shake hands with your neighbor whom you’ll never see again” time), only to then go about their lives as though God doesn’t matter too much, and not fellowship with anyone, just to then do it again next week? I don’t know. Seems useless to me. Teaching from the bible is good. Hearing teaching from the bible is good. Worship is good. But doing just those (and only for an hour or two each week) is like working out just your right bicep for an hour or two each week, and then neglecting to move any other muscle all week: atrophy and unbalance are going to follow. Makes no sense.

On what I think is a more healthy and reasonable approach: I go to a church of about 40 people (including the children). We have two (soon to be three) small groups that meet in homes, once a week. We also meet altogether in what most people would call a “regular church service” on Friday nights. But I think what makes us weird is that we believe that at the heart of things, “church” really happens in homes. Friday nights are more for efficiency’s sake, so that we have one guy teaching each week and one guy prepping for a sermon, instead of three (and also sort of to follow James’ suggestion: “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my friends”). But homes are where we have almost all of those other activities happening almost every week.

Not to say that “our camp has it right and all the others are going to hell”. No. Church can happen in a variety of ways – and they don’t all have to look like Olive Branch. But there are some things we (in The Church) need to do together (the aforementioned communal meals, teaching, prayer, discussion, fellowship, discipleship and worship) in order for them to be beneficial, and help us be closer to our Lord.

Nor can I say that this style of church has made us perfect Christians, but it’s helped us (most of us at least) be more like the people that I think God wants us to be. (Closer to Him, more serving of others, less self-focused.)

That’s a bit of a long-winded and rambling answer, but I hope I’ve gotten some of what I think on the matter across.

So why do you have church?