- The gospel we proclaim does not promise a lot of immediate benefit. As a matter of fact, we are inviting people to follow someone who was brutally tortured and publicly executed. Yet there are tremendous benefits to this new life, both now and forever. It is essential that we do not compromise those benefits.
I saw a movie as a kid that I will never forget. It was Cecile B. DeMille’s 1953 movie about circus life called The Greatest Show on Earth which won an Oscar for best picture. I saw it on TV one afternoon and there is a scene that has stayed with me all these years. To outdo his rival “The Great Sebastian,” played by Cornell Wilde, grabs a knife and cuts down the safety net before his famous trapeze act.
There are many reasons people go to church. Let’s take a look at a few of them:
Family expectation: “We’ve been going to this church/denomination for generations! We even have our own pew!”
Prestige: “I’m looked up to at my church. I’ve got to get respect somewhere in my life!”
Socializing: “My church has a lot of great social events and activities!”
Business: “I’ve gotten a lot of customers from my church members.”
Nostalgia: “Going to my church reminds me of the good ol’ days – back when God was capable of great things.”
Politics: “My church supports my political persuasions. I mean, I can’t be expected to worship with people who vote like that, can I?”
Acceptance: “I would not fit in my social circles if my family didn’t belong to a church.”
Patriotism: “My church is one place I can count on showing my love and devotion to the U.S.A.”
Blessings: “I know that if I keep going to church God will financially bless me.”
Ceremonialism: “My family needs a place to go for our christenings, weddings and funerals.”
Separation: “I know if I go to church God will separate me from people of different nationalities, income levels, and, you know, ‘those’ people…”
Romance: “There are tons of cute guys/gals at my church! You should come!”
Entertainment: “We have such great music where I go to church.”
Fear: “I’m afraid of what might happen to me if I stop going to church.”
Let’s face it, we all have various motives that influence our church attendance. But we all need to ask ourselves a simple question: “Do I go to church because of Jesus? Do I go to church because of Him?” Because all of the other reasons we go to church are ultimately not about Him – they are about us.
Personally, I have nothing whatsoever against patriotism or business or dating – but those are not the reasons my Savior lived and loved and died and was raised and then shared His very Spirit. Of all the bodies we can be, we are called to be a body of Christ.
So maybe it is time to stop endorsing all the ulterior reasons people attend church. Those reasons cannot be eliminated completely, but they do not need to be emphasized or exploited. Maybe its time we focus exclusively on Jesus. Maybe its time we cut down the safety nets.