Rick Hamlin explains why he believes that going to church matters.
Posted in , Sep 2, 2015
You hear the phrase often enough. People will say, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” And I’ll partly agree with them because indeed, I’m spiritual. I care about the life of the Spirit (with a capital S). But religious? Well, yes, I am that too. Sunday after Sunday–sometimes even on a weekday–I take myself to church for a necessary spiritual tune up. Here’s why I believe that church matters:
1) Give yourself a community.
I can’t do faith all on my own. I need the support of others, not just praying for me but also praying with me. Left on my own I’m likely to wander down endless paths of self-absorption. But among my fellow worshippers on a Sunday morning I see valiant souls who have overcome a thousand misfortunes and still proclaim, “God is our strength and our salvation…” Not for nothing did Jesus say, “Wherever two or more are gathered…”
2) Let’s praise God together.
All those Psalms, all those hymns, all those songs of praise. Some wag suggested that God must be quite vain if he needed people to constantly praise Him. Actually, as a minister pointed out, God urges us to praise Him because it’s good for us. It takes us out of ourselves and reminds us how blessed we are, like praising our spouse or our children. After all, we are all made in God’s image. Give credit where credit is due.
3) Hear the Word.
Of course I read Scripture on my own, puzzling over passages, but the Bible was written to be read aloud. Much of it was passed along orally before it was ever put down and in an era when few could read and paper was precious, people listened to the Gospel to understand it. Every week I hear passages in new ways because I’m in community with others who believe.
4) Put forgiveness on the agenda.
Dare I say it? Some of the hardest people to forgive have been people I’ve known from church. All the more reason that I’m reminded that forgiveness is essential to my faith. There it is in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, whether you say “debts” “trespasses” or “sins.” “Forgive us our sins,” we pray, “as you forgive those who sin against us.” Again and again, week after week.
5) Find companions for the journey.
Some of the best friendships I’ve ever had have come through church; some of my best friends are still there with me. Greeting everybody at coffee hour is just as important as the sermon–and yes the sermon is important. “I find God in nature,” people will tell you, “in beautiful sunsets and starlit skies.” Of course you do; we all do. But I’m not always communing with nature. I’m more often at my desk scrolling through email or fuming in a long line at the supermarket or ready to take down the driver who cut me off on the road.
Why take this road alone when God is offering me companions, week after week, who will visit me when I’m sick, email me when I’m down and pray for me without ceasing? Churches are far from perfect, like us. But I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to do God without mine.