Why do people go to church? This was a question I posed to my husband earlier today. I mean I know why people SHOULD go, but why do they REALLY go? His response was pretty insightful I thought…”Not all people, but many people go to church because of fear.” Not a healthy fear of the Lord, he explained – as in like being in awe of Him – but a fear of what will happen if they don’t go. Fear of dying. Fear of not getting into heaven. I really had to stop and think that one through a second which prompted further pondering on the subject.
You know I think here in the South, church is somehow part of the culture. I mean the region’s nickname is the Bible Belt, you know. If you live in the South and you don’t go to church, well then I’ll bet your Granny gets talked about at the Ladies Auxiliary Meetings ’cause her hoodlum grandkids don’t care a thing in the world about God. But one thing that I find interesting is how folks can misbehave and cut up, cuss like sailors, hit the bars and the college parties, tailgate to the tune of numerous alcoholic beverages – that whole “live like there’s no tomorrow” lifestyle – but then show up on Sunday morning for church and somehow it’s all good. Like the lifestyle they lead Monday through Saturday doesn’t matter as long as they drag themselves into the sanctuary on Sunday morning for an hour. And if I had to guess, it’s not repentance so much that brings them to church as it is guilt. Now I know what you’re probably thinking right now. I’m being judgemental. Nah, I just know that because I tried living like that for a while myself. I couldn’t take it. I felt like the biggest hypocrite in the universe and then that just brought on more guilt. So then I tried not going to church at all for a while. That didn’t work out so well either, needless to say, but that’s another story for another day.
So….we’ve got fear, culture, guilt. How about the entertainment factor? I’m currently reading Radical by David Platt (thanks Mrs. Juanita!!) and it’s really making me do some thinking. Here’s a little excerpt:
God’s Word is enough for millions of believers who gather in house churches just like this one. His Word is enough for millions of other believers who huddle in African jungles, South American rain forests, and Middle Eastern cities. But is His Word enough for us? This is the question that often haunts me when I stand before a crowd of thousands of people in the church I pastor. What if we take away the cool music and the cushioned chairs? What if the screens are gone and the stage is no longer decorated? What if the air conditioning is off and the comforts are removed? Would His Word still be enough for His people to come together?
Kinda strong words for us living the American dream, huh? I think we’ve gotten to a place in America where we are so desensitized to the world around us that it takes bigger and bigger stuff to keep us interested. We are no longer impressed with the fact that we can call someone on the phone who is in a whole other country. Big deal, I can even check my bank balance on my cell phone. We aren’t blown away anymore by the rows and rows of literature and information at the library. Ha! We can sit on our duffs at the computer and find out darn near anything about darn near anything. Heck, we don’t even have to spend the day cooking a good meal like my great-ma used to do. Shoot no, we can just pop a block of food in the microwave and have a semi-hearty meal in minutes chock full of umm….well I don’t know of what. I’ll have to get back to you on that. We have DVD players in our cars. Airplanes fly overhead and we barely even look up. Bottom line is…you gotta try pretty hard if you expect to get a wow outta us anymore. So in thinking about church in terms of entertainment, do we try so hard to make God interesting and tolerant and hip and fun that we lose the true character of God somewhere in the mix? I mean if we really did decide to take away the cool music and the narly light show, would people still come to church?
God is a God of love and compassion, of grace and mercy, of forgiveness and restoration. But He is also a God of judgement and a God of wrath, a God who hates sin and the wicked cannot dwell with Him (Psalm 5:4). He gave His Son over to carry the burden of our sins. He’s not here for our entertainment. He is deserving of our complete devotion and that means more than just one hour a week. Period. We can’t live for the world and by the world’s standards and live for God too. You are either for Him or against Him, but you can’t be in the middle (Luke 11:23).
So I’m curious as to what you think. Has the church gone overboard in trying to make God more appealing? Are we misrepresenting God in an effort to entice people to come to church?