What Is The Church?

You show up, walk through the doors and take a seat. You sing songs with a bunch of strangers. Even though those strangers try their best to make you feel welcomed and loved, the situation is still kind of awkward. You hear a sermon preached, and then leave the same way you came in. The people who know each other linger a little longer to socialize.

Photography by Susan Stiger, Muncy, PA

I didn’t grow up in the church, but I want to share how I grew into loving the worshiping of God with others. I occasionally went to Sunday school when I was really young with my babysitter Patty. How I thank God for the Pattys of the world! When I was in the fifth grade, I would walk to church with my childhood friend, who always invited me to be an acolyte with her when it was her turn in the youth rotation. I thought being an acolyte was the coolest job ever—my first real go at being a fire carrier! Putting on those white robes and waiting with anticipation to see which color sash would accompany the robe was so much fun to this fifth grader.

From the beginning, I loved being at church, but I fell away in my late teens and early twenties. When I finally came back home to church in my late twenties, I wholeheartedly gave Jesus my all. I invested my time in reading the Bible and learning all I could about God. You literally dissolve the disconnect you feel at church when you worship with knowledge of the Bible. Reading His Word makes you more comfortable with God as you learn who He is. The church can only make you feel so welcomed. You must do your part to be part of something bigger. Once you step out, you can’t help but praise Him.

Through travels, I have had the joy of attending church in different countries around the world. One very memorable worship service taught me exactly what it is like to praise God in church. I was on a missions trip to Haiti, and during the evening church service, the electricity went out. Since this happens all of the time, the people know not to be dependent on it—like we are in the States. A few candles were lit, and the service continued. I couldn’t see a thing, so I closed my eyes and listened. I heard the choir and the congregation singing. I really heard it—like it was the first time I had ever heard singing in my life. Everyone was singing their hearts out to God, praising Him in their beautiful Creole language. Everything was foreign to me, but in an instant, we were united as one, all together praising God. I had no other senses on which to focus. As I was seated, my eyes were closed, and my ears just opened up to listen.

I praised God with my ears until tears flowed from my eyes. I could hear heaven on earth. While I was in Haiti, I realized what worship was all about. The church service is a peek at heaven and a holy hug from God.

Later in the service, our missions team went to the front of the church to sing “Amazing Grace” to the congregation. After a few lines of our singing, they joined in, singing in Creole. Hearing the two languages praising God together was an overload for my ears and my heart. I couldn’t wait for heaven. I couldn’t stop smiling and crying as I was singing.

Being in community with other believers is what church is all about. Even today, I always get excited when I know I get to spend some time with other believers. Whether it’s a women’s Bible study group, a couples’ get-together, or a church service, I’m in—all in. What a gift to bask in the glory of God with other believers—I believe a touch of what’s to come in heaven.

After I returned home from a successful trip to Haiti, I continued to praise God with my ears. During church worship, I would stop singing, close my eyes and take it all in. I could hear the soft voices and the joyous sounds of babies, the singing of both young and old, all praising God. The church service is a peek at Heaven. We gather together to praise God—just like what we’ll do in Heaven.

This is a glimpse of how Heaven will be. Revelation 15:2 and 3 says that God gives us harps, and we will sing songs to our One and only, face to face. The church service is our holy hug, a place to practice, to know the songs and hymns. I can only imagine millions of harps along with millions of voices—all praising God. We will get to do that every day—not just on Sundays or on our ride to and from work.

Nothing is worth having in this life if Jesus isn’t a part of it. Worship is encountering the Living God. Praising and worshiping means giving our best to the Lord. We give Him our best when we prepare our hearts and our minds, submit to Jesus and praise Him with everything we’ve got.

We praise God so that we don’t forget what He has done for us. We praise God to remember His gifts and the love He shows us. We praise God so that the next generation can see and feel His love though us. Deuteronomy 4:9 reminds us not to forget the things we’ve seen of God or to let them slip from our hearts so we can pass them on to others. We praise God for each other and carry each other’s burdens as Galatians 6:2 reminds us to do. And in James 4:8, we are reminded to draw near to God, and He will draw near to us. We draw near to God though praise and worship, confession, reading His Word, and serving others.

The heart of worship is so much greater than gathering to sing a few songs, taking a seat, and hearing a message. Hebrews 10:25 (NIV) beautifully describes why we gather: “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

We gather at church to strengthen and encourage one another, worship together and deepen our relationship with God. Many trials and persecution will happen to believers as the “Day” (Christ’s return) approaches. We therefore come together, unite, and create a bond that the Devil cannot divide. Meeting together is important.

The reason why you should invite your friends to church is found in James 5:19-20 (NIV),”My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover a multitude of sins.”

Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20 NIV). Who wouldn’t want to be where Jesus dwells? And according to Colossians 3:16, it’s biblical to sing with a heart full of gratitude to God—the One who can’t wait to hear our voices.

To sum up, we go to church for the following reasons:

• Attending church publicly is showing your belief in the one true God.

• Attending church is professing with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord.

• Attending church is hearing the public reading of God’s Word that is the process of renewing our minds and spirit needed every week.

• Attending church is anticipating God on the scene. He shows up every time. Wait for Him!

• Attending church is the lights-out, eyes-closed presence of God that is more than powerful; it is life.

• Attending church is showing up and surrendering to God.

• Attending church is learning something new or being reminded of a lesson from God.

• Attending church is receiving encouragement, guidance and direction in a world that jockeys for our position—God’s position.

• Attending church is a privilege that some believers around the world don’t have.

Attending church is more than songs and taking a seat in a pew; it’s worship. Church is life. It’s why we go; it’s Who we wait for. It’s why we invite our friends. Church is a true heartbeat checkpoint on the highway of life. Church is a chance to readjust, repent, replenish, and rest in His outstanding and abiding presence. Church, yes! We need it. We need Jesus! We are the church. Church can’t happen if people don’t show up. Show up! Open the door. Take a seat. Make a friend. Be a friend. That is the church.

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Recovering Sinner, Adopted by Christ, Saved by Grace

PO Box 242 Gore, VA 22637