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6 Bad Reasons to ‘Go to Church’

going to church for the wrong reasons

Have you ever found yourself going to church for the wrong reasons?

The phrase “go to church” is a “no-no” in missional circles. Some 20-something chastises me every time I let that phrase slip from my mouth at our church.

Church is not a place we go. It is a way of life we live as being God’s people in the world participating in His Mission.

Acknowledging that, why get up and go on Sunday to the gathering of His people? I must admit to often awakening Sunday morning and experiencing the inertia of getting going to the Sunday morning gathering. And I am a pastor! Why go to such a gathering?

Going to Church for the Wrong Reasons

To combat this inertia, I think we can get into some bad habits for “going to church.” If we got rid of these habits, we might actually be able to see the gathering as a more natural part of the rhythms of our life with God in His Mission.

Here are six ways to start going to church for the wrong reasons.

Don’t go to church

1. Out of Duty/Obligation

Spiritual disciplines are good if they are openings for God to work and shape our lives into His life and Mission. Too often, however, disciplines become duties, devoid of the life to which they were meant to connect us. Don’t go to church out of duty or obligation. It should be a regular spiritual discipline that shapes us into His life and Mission.

2. If This Is What It Means to Be a Christian

If you think being a Christian is what happens in this hour-and-a-half, stop going to church for the wrong reasons and ask what it means to follow Christ when you don’t go. This is where we gather to encounter the living God corporately, respond to Him, be shaped by His vision and His work, and then be sent out to continue this life into the world.

3. To Get Your Needs Met

If you think some problem in your life will be solved or some need met by “going to church,” don’t go! Because more than likely you’ll be disappointed. Sometimes needs, physical and otherwise, get met at the cross (or around the prayer bench) in instantaneous fashion, but most often there’s some suffering that needs to be walked through in the death and resurrection of Christ. Most of our needs are ministered to over time as we submit them regularly to Christ and what He is doing.

4. To Feel Good, Get Inspired 

I recognize a lot of times I come away feeling inspired and good after the gathering.

But I try to check myself on this. For if I get addicted to a certain “feeling good” worship experience or some inspiration from the sermon, my relationship with God starts to look like an addiction to a feeling that has become narcissistic. It stunts the growth of my character into God and what He is doing. Maybe I’m too uptight on this?

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David Fitch is a bi-vocational pastor at Life on the Vine and the B.R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary.