Several conversations combined with my very active toddler have led me to spend some time thinking about his question:
“If we get nothing (and I mean absolutely nothing) out of going to church on Sundays, should we still go?”
What if the hassle of getting dressed up for church, and the bigger hassle of getting the kids ready for church, the driving to church, the sitting through “boring” services, and the biggest challenge…getting the kids to sit through “boring” service could be better spent:
- having meaningful conversations about God?
- enjoying God’s beautiful creation outside?
- doing an interactive craft that relates to God?
- serving the poor to teach charity?
- visiting grandparents?
- “living” the faith in the real world?
I’ll be honest…a lot of these sound good. They sound like they actually might be more beneficial than going to church. I will admit, I have actually thought this after leaving Mass completely exhausted and empty from trying to keep my little toddler behaved and quiet.
But…truly, the answer is….none of these options are more valuable than sitting through a “boring” mass in which you get nothing out of.
Because church/Mass is actually not about you. (shocking)
It’s not about entertainment, or good music, or interactive sermons.
It’s actually about having enough discipline to set aside some time for God and his universal church. To celebrate and worship him in a community of people. To learn how to love Him and serve Him even when we don’t feel like it’s benefiting us.
I’ve heard the common complaint from many fellow Christians that they can lead a better christian life without going to church, and that they “don’t get anything out of church anyways”.
This is an interesting idea to me.
Maybe it’s true…maybe they really don’t get anything out of it.
However, I think “going to church” on Sunday is more about the universal church and discipline and sacrifice than it is about “getting something“.
Maybe it’s actually about “giving something“. (weird concept, I know)
Maybe it’s good for us to give our time, attention, energy, and reverence.
I would argue that actually committing to going to church every Sunday, not just because it’s a commandment, but for the sake of learning what it means to be selfless and reverent is enough of a reason to go.
Our culture is not a supporter of discipline and reverence.
Sure, sometimes church is boring.
Sure, sometimes we are too busy keeping our kids quiet to pay attention.
Sure, sometimes it’s frustrating seeing other people also bored at church.
Sure, sometimes it’s discouraging seeing “hypocrites” playing big roles at church.
Sure, it sucks getting occasional looks from that “judgy lady” when you’re a few minutes late after the huge battle of even deciding to go to church.
Typically these reasons drive people away from the church. We are driven away because we don’t feel “filled-up” and we see other imperfect people at church ( who are actually probably living the same battle we are). Yet, we expect to go to church to be completely filled up and be surrounded by perfect people. Ha…
I think we can all learn a few things from this.
Instead of letting these things drive us away from practicing our faith…why doesn’t it lead us to a deeper conversation about the real “WHY” for going to church.
So WHY do we go to church after mentioning all of these common complaints?
Well, in my opinion…
- “Going to church” is not about us.
- It’s about learning how to prioritize weekly worship for God. It’s about actually committing to something so important as our salvation…regardless of how convenient it is or how “filled-up” we feel.
- It’s about participating in a COMMUNITY of followers. Regardless of whether or not you consider the other people at church to be “real” believers, or a “hypocritical pharisee” your commitment to being there is one of the greatest witnesses. Your commitment to just being there can encourage the community and challenge the skeptics. I think many of Jesus’ disciples are those guys that “just kept showing up”.
- It’s about reverence…maybe our kids don’t understand God yet (and I still don’t), and we think hushing them up for an hour is pointless….but if we’re doing our job as parents (living the faith at all times and being spiritual leaders at home) then they are actually learning how to be reverent for an hour. Something that they may never learn anywhere else.
- It’s about “doing the work” even when you feel empty. Mother Teresa talks about how she only felt the true love of God once in her life and the rest of her life was filled with despair and darkness. The average onlooker would never know this about her. She is a perfect example of someone who did God’s work and commands because of real faith. She kept “showing up”. This is the type of faith that causes someone to do good when you get ABSOLUTELY no benefit. Sometimes that’s what it may feel like when we are committed to going to church, but in those times…when we’re committed to doing the work of God (even when we don’t feel any benefit from it) we are actually never closer to Jesus at the foot of the cross…because that is when we are truly living with faith.
A funny thing might happen when you DECIDE and COMMIT that you are going to participate in church/mass every Sunday without out fail for the sake of our Lord and his universal church….
You might actually get something out of it… because you’ll realize that it’s not about you.