‘Do I have to go to church every Sunday?
This depends a great deal on what your criteria are for making decisions. Some people are ruled by what they feel like and, for such people, everything that they do depends on their ‘feelings’ and usually on whether they ‘get anything out of it’
But there are a great many things that we do in life which appear to have no immediate benefit to us. One example is the diet we eat. Endless chips seem to be good and nourishing, but in the long run they are bad for us. In the same way good things are not always perceived as such. Children wonder why they have to clean their teeth twice a day.
Church going is like that. It is not a matter of what we get out of it – although we may indeed receive a good deal, whether we feel it or not. The really important issue is what we give to it: the whole matter of duty. Our worship is really about giving God the honour which fits His name. That is something that we have a responsibility to do. It is a kind of responsive offering in gratitude for all He has done for us. Another vital reason why we go to church is to learn more about the Word of God, in order that it may increasingly affect our lives. A third reason is that we have the chance to receive the Holy Communion, which is a supper and a meal and a way in which the Lord feeds us spiritually. But the most significant of all reasons requires me to use what is nowadays a dirty word: duty.
When I was a child my grandma gave me a bookmark. I have it still. It said: ‘Work hard; do your duty; and leave the rest to God’. That is not bad way of summing up what the Christian Life is about.
But there is still another reason why we should be in the church building every Sunday; and that is the fact that Jesus Himself took public worship seriously. We shall surely want to follow his example in all things.
John Pearce is Rector of Limehouse in the diocese of London