Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Why go to church?


"For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds."—Luke 11:10a

By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

Why do you go to church on Sunday? Why? Have you thought about that? Is there an overpowering need or drive that pushes you? Are you in search of something?

Some people go out of habit or tradition. Others go because of curiosity. Still others go due to guilt. Some go because there are deep and abiding friendships at church, connections that have been nurtured over a long period of time. Those physically unable to be present at a church tune in to broadcast services.

Take a closer look at why you go. This question and, more importantly, the answer you give will say a lot about you.

I’m typically at several churches on a weekly basis. I thought I’d share with you today why I go to church. I hope my reasons will help you answer the question.

Asking, seeking

When I go to church on Sunday, I am in search of something. I go seeking guidance, strength, and spiritual nourishment for the week. The unknown days before me are filled with too much uncertainty for me to try and go it alone in my life.

In the words of an elderly woman who found herself at the altar: "I don’t know the way, so I need to be in touch with someone who does."

There at church, I am listening for God to speak to me through the Scriptures, the sermon, the music, the Communion, and a host of other ways. I am waiting and listening for God to talk to me individually!

I have come to understand that the message is not talk about God, but an opportunity for God to talk to me. I am there in church to affect a meeting between God and me, so we may talk in a personal way. I am there so God can probe me, challenge me, call on me for a decision, and offer holy help to me.

Through the mediums of Scripture, homily, and music, God claims me, measures me, forgives me, and commissions me.

In short, I go to church to be in the presence of God. I go to learn of God’s love for me as evidenced through Jesus Christ, and how that love can redeem and save me from a hard and cruel world.

However, before I go to church, there are two very important things I must do.

1. Go in the right frame of mind

The foremost reason some people don’t get more out of their encounters with God in worship is because they don’t go in the right frame of mind. You must make the necessary preparations, just as though you are going to meet a well-loved friend. You are! You are going to meet the greatest Friend!

But perhaps your thoughts remain crowded with the issues from the previous week. Before you go, put aside that argument from the previous night; let go of your hang-ups and disappointments; reconcile with that neighbor or family member.

Resolve in advance to be on time. There is no way you can enjoy church when you rush frantically, hurrying out of the house and down the road—only to arrive disgruntled. Being on time for church is just as easy as being on time for your job—or whatever it is you must do with some measure of punctuality.

There is a warm, refreshing atmosphere waiting for you at church, whether your Sunday morning there begins with Sunday school or worship service. The fellowship of interesting people at church school and the beauty and peace of the sanctuary just before worship begins afford ideal moments to remind yourself God is there for you.

2. Go to celebrate and participate

Going to church in the right frame of mind is important. Being an active part of the services through celebration and participation is a must! All of us should be eager to proclaim God’s goodness because we all receive special blessings that are uniquely ours throughout each week.

If you and I don’t shout it out, who will?

Let the Bible become your spiritual homeland. Take the time to inhabit and live in this dwelling. The main reason that people claim they get no benefit from the services is because the Scriptures are foreign to them. Get into the Word of God and, I assure you, God’s Word will get into you!

After you’ve shared in the beautiful music, the comforting Scriptures, and the witness to the Word, what comes next? It is time for you to go out and share God’s goodness!

You must carry God’s invitation out from the sanctuary and into the world. Others are longing to hear God speak to them, too.

I began by asking the question: Why do you go to church?

Only you know the answer to that. If you truly ask God for the answer and seek God in the place where He is waiting to meet you, then chances are you will find Him!


Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World

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