Ten Reasons Why You Should Be Going to Church

I’ve just seen one too many articles on why people aren’t coming to church. Admittedly, there are some good reasons. But I’d like to share my top 10 reasons why you should be coming to church. Others will have different reasons and some may disagree with the ones I have listed, but here they are.

10. Coming to church doesn’t mean you have no doubts about God or faith or religion. It means you have a place you can share with people who have their own doubts.

9. Bad stuff is going to happen in your life. It just is. A church community cannot be everything to everyone in times of crisis, but when the bottom falls out of your world, it’s great to have a community to lift you back up.

8. Bad stuff is going to happen in your life, part two. The time to build a relationship with God is not when life turns ugly, and you’ve run out of all other options. Attending worship regularly helps build a relationship with God and others that will give you a solid foundation when the winds blow and the storms come.

7. Not all churches are anti-something. Most of us are for people, for acceptance, for hospitality. Really, we’re out there. We just don’t get the good press.

6. Any church worth its salt has really good food on a regular basis.

5. Churches offer paint-by-number opportunities to serve. Many people would like to help the poor, the hungry and the homeless, but they don’t know how to get involved, how to make the time to be involved, or what they can do to really make a difference. Churches offer you ways to plug in to help those who need it most.

4. You’ve got a gift. Probably two or 10 of them. Becoming involved in the ministry of a church will help you discover and use gifts you never even knew you had.

3. Not all churches are after your money. Good churches want you have a healthy relationship with money. Sure, churches need to pay the electric bill and the pastor and the youth director, but money and the church is more about you than it is about the church. It’s about your own relationship with money. World events have proven that it’s much better to put faith in God than in a bank account. Church can help you with that.

2. Taking a break from our hectic lives to come to church is accepting the gift of Sabbath. Wayne Mueller says, “[Sabbath] dissolves the artificial urgency of our days, because it liberates us from the need to be finished.” We don’t take Sabbath and come to worship because we have time and have finished up everything that needs to be done. We take Sabbath because it is time to stop, and we are designed to stop, rest, and reflect. Those who don’t are destined to crash and burn.

1. Jesus is really cool. Even if you don’t know if you can believe in the whole Son-of-God thing, even if you refer to the resurrection as the Zombie Jesus event, and even though those of us already in church often do a lousy job of following him, come to church to get to know Jesus. The more you get to know him, the more you’ll understand why people call his way The Way.

–Rev. Anne Russ

Insiders and Outsiders

By Bishop Mike Rinehart

Here’s my hunch. Everything for me rises or falls on this bet. I’m putting all my eggs in this basket:

The turnaround of the mainline churches will happen when we in those churches care as much about those outside the church, as we do those inside. To embrace relevance, we will have to let go of survival.
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. If I’m wrong, fire me now. I’ll die on this hill.

What does this mean?
My theory is that the mainline churches have ceased to be relevant to the culture, because insiders trump outsiders every time.

Decisions are made for the benefit of those inside rather than those outside the church. In every single decision, even the little ones, insiders trump outsiders. Take hymns, for example. Musical decisions are not made considering what will attract spiritually hungry outsiders, but what will please the card-carrying, bill-paying membership. Most church outsiders don’t care if you ever sing “How Great Thou Art.” They won’t be slightly offended by a guitar in church. Time and time again church leaders receive heat from church insiders upset about this or that, because the insiders are trying to recreate their childhood church experience or simply have a rigid idea of what church is supposed to be. Church leaders cave in to these insiders because try control the purse strings.

More facts on the ground: insiders are inherently change-averse. People don’t like change, especially those who have status in the church. Pete Steinke taught us that every church is an emotional system. Some people are benefitting from the system as it currently is. Some benefit emotionally. They are revered as church saints. Or they are validators to whom everyone turns for approval of decisions. They are having an emotional need met by receiving recognition. Or perhaps they are simply tirelessly defending The Tradition, regardless of how new or unhelpful that tradition may be. People in power, who have privileges in the current system, will resist change and make life really hard for any leader who seeks to be a change agent. Pastors are paid from members’ giving, so there is a potential conflict of interest. If they do the right thing, some leaders will end up losing their job (or up on a cross, to reference an often-told story).

Why is this happening?
Church structures were set up to preserve what exists, not change it. These stable structures work well when society is changing slowly, imperceptibly. If something is working, protect it at all costs. But what if it is not working? What if the rate of societal change skyrockets, and old patterns and structures no longer work? Peter Drucker once said, “When the rate of change outside the organization exceeds the rate of change inside the organization, the organization is doomed.”

What do we do about it?
Change. Adapt. The church has adapted, survived and even thrived in times of tectonic change in the past. It can again.
Stable structures are a high value in a stable culture, but when in a climate of rapid change, adaptability is the higher value. In a time of stability, experience is crucial. In times of change, experience can be a liability, especially if the experienced make the fatal mistake of assuming what garnered success in the past, will guarantee success in the future. What got you where you are now will not get your where you need to go in the future. Sorry. Leaders who don’t get this are in for some rough sledding.

Let’s face it, change is hard. Change, however is non-negotiable. The only constant in life is change. There is no growth without change. As someone once said, “The only one who likes change is a wet baby.” Any kind of change creates conflict. Leaders can only tolerate so much discontent. And even a little discontent sounds LOUD when you’re in the hot seat. So when things heat up, leaders circle the wagons, which is precisely the wrong thing to do. Instead, leaders need to sin boldly. Lead boldly. Look at any successful enterprise and you can be certain that someone, at some point, took a huge risk along the way. Nothing great is accomplished without risk.

“The trouble with Steve Jobs: Likes to make his own rules, whether the topic is computers, stock options, or even pancreatic cancer. The same traits that make him a great CEO drive him to put his company, and his investors, at risk.”  —Fortune Magazine

But risk is risky, and change is simply too difficult and painful. Most organizations won’t change until they’re desperate, like the alcoholic that won’t go to rehab until s/he hits rock bottom.
So what will give us the courage to take those risks?

This takes us back to the beginning. Churches will not adapt to the new realities until they care as much about reaching those outside, as appeasing those inside.

The world is hell-bent on destruction in countless ways. It is desperately in need of a church that offers a Way of peace, truth, compassion and hope, as opposed to the world’s way of power, materialism, exploitation and violence. It needs leaders willing to risk comfort, status and economic security for the life of the world and the outreach potential of the church. It needs a church that looks less like the Pharisees’ religion and more like Jesus’ ministry. It needs a church that is willing to sacrifice everything for those outside: buildings, budgets, sacred cows, traditions, structures. It needs a church that so loves the world, that she’d be willing to die for it.

So here’s the plan. New policy. Every decision, every single decision made by staff, council and every committee is made on behalf of those not yet here. Every sermon choice, every hymn, song and musical choice, every building and grounds choice, every spending choice is made with outsiders in mind.

When we become a church for the world, the outsider, when the pain of staying the same (and dying of irrelevance) for those already here exceeds the pain of changing (and sacrificing old ways) for those not yet here, we will be the church for which God incarnate came to this earth and gave his life.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Christ is risen! Imagine the power in those words of promise.
When the disciples first heard Jesus speak of his death and resurrection, "they kept the matter to themselves" (Mark 9:10). But the news is too good to keep to ourselves. The life of Jesus Christ has been unleashed into the world.
Because Christ is risen, you can embrace life's complexities and uncertainties with a living, daring confidence in God's grace. The risen Christ goes ahead of you, meeting you in the most surprising faces and unexpected places. Christ's resurrection puts us right where God wants us to be -- in the thick of life.
Because Christ is risen, you have a word of hope. To those weary from mourning loss and fearing death, the assurance is given that nothing in all creation will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
The life of Jesus, God's own life, has burst into the world, restoring community. At the barriers we erect to divide us, the risen Christ meets us, turning those walls into tables of reconciliation. To those who live in fear and feel unworthy, the promise is given. "You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19).

Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson

Every morning you awaken with the mark of Jesus' death on your forehead and the promise of Christ's resurrection on your lips.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!
In God's grace,
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
How vast is your glory, O Lord God

There is a Taiwanese fable about a frog who lived at the bottom of a well. When the frog was thirsty, he drank a little water from the well, and when he was hungry, he ate some insects that flew into the well. When he was tired, he lay on a little rock at the bottom of the well and looked up at the sky above him. To the little frog, the sky was a small circle of blue. He was very happy and satisfied, for this was the only world he had ever known.
   One day a bird perched at the edge of the well. The little frog looked up and said, "Hello! Why don't you come down here and play with me? It's so pleasant down here. Look, I have cool water to drink and countless insects to eat. Come down!" But the bird responded with stories of and endless expanse of beautiful sky. The frog listened in disbelief then argued that the sky was small and round, for he had never been outside the well and seen the entire sky. The bird tried to coax the frog out of the well so he could see the sky, but the frog sat on his rock, convinced he was right. Eventually the bird flew away in frustration, and the frog was left alone to continue pondering his little patch of sky.
   Eventually a yellow sparrow swooped into the well, put the frog on it's back, and flew out of the dank well into the sunlight. For the first time the frog saw flowers, trees, animals, mountains, and rivers. Finally the bird placed him on a lotus leaf in a beautiful pond where the frog enjoyed his days-never again to return to the well.
   To a frog at the bottom of a well, the sky may be only a small circle of blue. But to a bird, the sky is vast, beautiful, and wonderful. ( The Externally focused Church, page 200.)
   The body of Christ is called from the four walls of the church, their well, to experience the vast array of God's created order, by engaging the world with love, bringing peace and joy. Gathered to grow, sent to share. Let's be the sparrow and not the frog!

                                          Pastor Mike
Whose Church Is This Anyway?

The strong opinions I encounter among church members about “their” church never fail to amaze me. I have even heard some claim ownership to individual items in the church building. We all want and need a place to call home, a place where we can gather with like-minded folks, whether that’s at the family table, a local bar, or even at a church. We gather at those places because we feel supported and in relationship with others. And in each place, we name it as “my family,” “my bar” and even, “my church.” Those are places where everybody knows your name. We also name other things as “mine;” my shoes, my pet dog, my feet, implying that these are not equals with me, but my possessions, things I can unilaterally control. Sadly, sometimes we refer to places where relationships happen in the same way we refer to our body parts or pets, as if that would give us some kind of control over them. Just ask anyone struggling with a serious illness or injury if naming their body as “mine” gives them the control they desire. One very quickly discovers that there is very little say over how “your” body functions. Certainly, there is good stewardship: good nutrition, exercise, prayer, spiritual disciplines, preventative care, to name a few. But a time comes in everyone’s life (perhaps one lesson that age tries to teach you?) when you realize that your body, your very life, is ultimately in God’s hands.  Read more.