What should a church look like? Where should a church meet? What should happen during church services? These are age-old questions that many people with greater minds than me have been asking and pontificating on for years on why people attend church.
I have heard people say they had church on a Sunday morning as they walked solitarily through the woods. I have heard people say that the small group that meets in their living room is church. I have even heard people say they “had church” at a sporting event or rock concert.
Rather than to dive into what “church” actually is, as I do not feel qualified to answer that. Let's look at why people go to church and think about how our buildings, ministry and services support this.
I know that people attend a church service for multiple reasons, some good and some not so good. I knew a real estate agent that would float between the large churches in the area as he wanted to be seen and known. This helped him scout for clients. Obviously, I do not think this a good reason to attend church. I also know many people who have attended the same church their entire life. They have stayed through the thick and thin and feel called to be in fellowship with other believers at that church. Christian fellowship is always good.
There are many reasons people venture out and through the doors of a church. It is my belief that one of the large driving reasons that people show up Sunday after Sunday, is that they are in search of a communal experience. Yes our faith is a personal faith, an individual faith where one has to reckon their own salvation, but it is also in community where we grow, learn and walk out our faith. This means that there is a social, spiritual, personal and communal reason that people attend church.
I recently watched an interview with a secular band talking about the tour that they were preparing to embark on. The frontman for the band in talking about all of the technology that they were deploying on the tour, mentioned that the reason for the immersive sound system and the lighting system that encapsulated the arena, was to create a communal experience. He stated that his desire was to provide something that people could only experience in person at the concert. It needed to be different than the experience that someone could have by simply watching online.
For this particular band it was more than a music concert, performance or show that they were striving for. They wanted the audience to have a unique communal experience that would draw their fan base together and be completely different than what someone would experience apart from the event.
I believe this is what a church can uniquely offer, a communal experience. It does not even have to include technology. In church we come together to seek the Lord. We do it thru, prayer, worship, teaching, hearing the word read, reading the word, singing songs, being contemplative, silence and loud noise.
Coming together we raise a solitary voice, that along with the body of believers, worship the Lord and seek His direction for the corporate life of the church. We also seek our own personal direction and growth. It is when we are in community that we grow in our faith, alongside others. In this relationship people can speak into our lives, support us and our needs.
Attending church is all about the communal experience. The experience that we have together in worship, the experience that we have praying for one another and the experience that we have pursuing the Lord together.