The Doctor's Office Is Empty!
by Pastor Shane Montgomery
Why do we attend church? What a question to ask. Yet, so many people get frustrated and leave churches for the wrong reasons. This can only happen because people have lost sight of the Biblical reasons for attending a Bible-believing church. If we are saved, we should want to go to church (Psalms 122:1)! God refers to the local church as the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth, I Timothy 3:15.
It truly shocks me how many people don't go to church anymore because of "others". They sit at home because someone hurt them or disappointed them in the past. It also shocks me how many people leave good churches and compromise their beliefs by attending churches that have left the "old paths" - why? Because of "others".
The devil wants us to focus on people rather than the Lord, because people will always let us down. He knows that if we watch the behaviour of "others" in the church, we will get frustrated. He also knows that if we get hurt by "others", and don't make it right, we will be driven out by our own bitterness.
First of all, we should be attending church because God wants us to - it is a command (Hebrews 10:25). God designed the church to be an integral part of our growth (Psalms 92:13). Without it we will backslide.
Secondly, God wants us to attend church because the teaching and preaching of the Word will be used by Him to refine us (II Timothy 4:2; I Peter 5:2).
Thirdly, God wants us to attend church to corporately worship the Lord (pray, praise, sing, give, partake of the Lord's supper), things we cannot do anywhere else (Acts 1:14; 2:47; Hebrews 2:12; I Corinthians 16:2).
Fourthly, God wants us to attend church because that is the place where we can most effectively use our gifts to serve the Lord, something all Christians are commanded to do (I Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:12).
Fifthly, God wants us to attend church for exhortation and edification (Colossians 3:16; I Thessalonians 5:11). The fellowship we have together is designed to encourage us and lift us up as we focus on the Lord together. As we get to know one another and become a Christian "family", we are led by the Holy Ghost to care one for another, I Corinthians 12:25.
These are just some of the Biblical reasons for attending God's local church. Isn't it surprising how many people leave churches anyway! Let me tell you why.
A church is very much like a hospital. It is for sick people - people sick with sin and hurt. Jesus is the Great Physician and He uses the church to show us the way to get healed of our spiritual ailments. Wouldn't it be ridiculous for a doctor to be frustrated because sick people kept coming to the surgery, for him to expect only the well to come and visit? Yet, many Christians want only the "righteous" to come to church. The Pharisees of Jesus' day had the same wrong thinking (see Luke 7:37-50). That is why Jesus told them, I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance in Luke 5:32. The church is filled with sinners, including you!
Wouldn't it be just as ridiculous for one of us to go to the hospital with a broken leg and spend all of our time and energy focusing on the ailments of others? Why did we go to the hospital? We went to get help for our hurt. Jesus warned us about the tendency to look at the sins of others in many passages, but especially look at Matthew 7:1-5. When we attend the house of God, we should be seeking God's help with "our" ailments (sins, trials, frustrations, wrong thinking and wrong behaviour), not looking at the ailments of "others". Until we are 100% right with God ourselves, living for Him and serving Him with all of our heart, we have no place to be concerned with whether or not "others" are as right with Him as we are. That is between them and God! They measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise, II Corinthians 10:12. Everyone grows at different rates, and we cannot see the hearts of others. We must be careful about making character judgments based upon the externals. The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart, I Samuel 16:7.
My friend, even Jesus' disciples let Him down. One of them betrayed him. They argued about who should be the greatest. They wanted to kill those that were not with them. They wanted to chase away the children that desired some time with the Saviour. They did not understand the spiritual lessons Jesus tried to teach them along the way. They even forsook Him during His darkest hour! There is no perfect church and there won't be until heaven! How can an organisation filled with sinners ever be perfect?
Another common reason that people leave churches is because they refuse to get differences with others reconciled. When people leave the church for these reasons, they are the biggest hypocrite of all, because Jesus said that our love for one another would be the most obvious way for the world to know that we are Christians (John 13:35). Not reconciling with those that have wronged us or those we have wronged is nothing short of wickedness and disobedience (See Matthew 5:23-24, Matthew 18:15-16, and Mark 11:25-26). There are no excuses or exceptions to these Biblical principles. Forgiveness is the heart of Christianity! If a person leaves a church with unresolved differences, God does not forget and it will not go away just because they left a particular church. Things will not be right with God until they are right with one another. 1 John 4:20, If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
Isn't the devil crafty! He convinces people to leave a church and penalise everyone else in the family because of a difference or frustration with one or two. Thankfully, most don't treat their blood families this way!
Oh, may we all go to church with the attitude of David in Psalms 122:1, I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD. May we go with the intent of helping someone rather than hurting someone, Galatians 6:2, Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. May we look forward to the opportunity to serve the LORD with gladness, Psalms 100:2.