Going to Church for Less Than the Right Reasons

Sometimes I hear people say about attendance at worship, “If you aren’t going for the right reason(s), you might as well not even be there.”

I, however, think it is better to be there than not to be there regardless of your motivation or reasons that particular day.

First, the Bible not only commands faithfulness to the assembly (Heb. 10:25), it also assumes that believers will develop and maintain a healthy relationship with the church.

This doesn’t happen when you stay home. If your spouse or family needed your help and they didn’t reach out for it, you would be offended and hurt that they didn’t give you a chance to help. Don’t do that to the church. Build a healthy relationship with them by being faithful and giving them a chance to minister to you.

Second, we do things with mixed motives all the time.

In wintertime I keep my sidewalk and drive free of snow and ice because if I don’t, the U.S. Postal Service won’t deliver my mail (trust me, I know this for a fact). But I also don’t want people to fall and get hurt. The one “selfish” motivation does not in any way negate or diminish the other, “non-selfish,” motivation. So if you’re going just to honor a commitment; that doesn’t make your attendance less honorable, nor does it mean that God won’t minister his grace to you.

Third, the times when you might not be going for the right reason might be the times you need the Word, the worship, and the fellowship of God’s people all the more.

Even as a pastor I don’t always feel like being at church (much less preaching). Sounds horrible, I know, but it’s the truth. Sometimes I’m sick, or depressed, or pressed down by the cares of life. But I learned long before I became a preacher that those were the times I really needed to be there. In fact, I would say that the less you want to be there, the more you need to be. Go anyway and let God speak to you through his Word and let your brothers and sisters lift you up and encourage you.

Fourth, maturity leads us to do things that we may not always want to do but that we know must be done.

Sometimes we do things not because we want to, but because they are the right things to do. My dad used to say all the time when I was little, “Son, you’re going to have to do a lot in life that you don’t want to do.” True. Discipline is a sign of maturity and discipline in our attendance upon God, I think, can be a sign of spiritual maturity.

What to do?
1. Pray that the Lord will give you a hunger for his Word, his worship, and the fellowship of his people. These are things that the Scriptures say you should hunger for as a believer so why would he not answer this prayer?

2. Cultivate relationships with your brothers and sisters in Christ. This will not only give you a human reason to be faithful, it will give you opportunities to minister to others who perhaps are enduring the same cares and struggles.

3. Sign up! What I mean is, volunteer to help somewhere at church. This will not only give you accountability (so that you’ll be more likely to show up and it will help them see you so that you don’t slip through the cracks), it will also give you opportunity to serve the Lord and to know the joy of serving.

About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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2 Responses to Going to Church for Less Than the Right Reasons

  1. Arthur Sido says:

    I think those comments are most often directed at unbelievers, who are coming to church for a variety of reasons but none of them are to worship the Lord. Conversely, if an unbeliever is coming to church and what is going on there satisfies them, I would say the issue is in what the church is doing.

  2. It may be true that unbelievers make comments like this, I don’t know.The people I am referring to, and the overwhelming majority of people I have heard make these comments are professing believers who are, presumably, using such comments to justify their unfaithfulness in attendance at worship.Those are the people to whom I am speaking in this post.

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