"going to church"

I've noticed over the last few months that my views about "going to church" are changing. Part of it had to do with not having very good options for church around here. And part, I suppose, has to do with thoughts about being a father and about what I'll teach and expect of my son. I haven't been going to church much lately, and it feels okay so far. We have our weekly small group going again, a time for singing and sharing and prayer and communion, and that has been more satisfying than most of my church experiences.

Now I know there are many good reasons for going to church, and that people can get a variety of good things from church participation. I've often had good reasons to go in the past. I usually haven't connected much with the worship or preaching, but I have valued meeting people there, and still do from time to time. I don't think I'd try to discourage anyone from going, if they're finding good experiences at church.

I'm just starting to think that it shouldn't be seen as a necessary part of following Jesus, as it usually is. If you have a good reason for going, then go. But if you can worship or pray or learn or find fellowship or serve God better in other ways, then feel free to choose those instead.

Ironically, one of the main reasons people use to insist on church attendance is one of the main objections I have to churches. We are told to go to church because the body of Christ is corporate, a union of many, and we cannot be Christians alone. True enough. But what does that have to do with going to church? The equating of the body of Christ with one of our many divided human organizations called "churches" is one of the main falsehoods taught in church. It's easy enough, if we attend for a while, to see it's not true. A church is always a mixed bag, falling far short of what we most deeply desire. But if we truly believe in the corporate body of Christ, and faithfully look for the unity and divine hand at work in the one Body, then we'll be shown how we can find support and serve God with others beyond the narrow confines of the churches. Without having to accept the hypocrisy and church politics and money squabbles, just like we find in every other human organization. If the body of Christ is what we're looking for, then in church is probably not the best place to see it. Some of those same people will reflect Jesus much better in other places, on other days of the week.

But, as I said, there can be good things to be found in church, and good reasons to go. I just don't think it should be automatic, or required for Christians. Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." Two or three. That can be found in lots of places besides a church.