Why We Go To Church

A few months ago Joel Osteen’s wife Victoria made the following statement: “when you go to church, you’re not doing it for God, you’re doing it for yourself.” The problem with her comment is not the idea that we benefit from going to church (we certainly do!), but her assertion that the reason we should go to church is mainly, if not exclusively, for ourselves. In other words, we go to church so that we can look good in the eyes of parents, friends, coworkers and others we come into contact with. More to the point, Osteen’s statement means that we go to church because God’s chief purpose and desire for us is our personal happiness. This idea, however, is entirely opposed to Scripture and the Confessions. The Westminster Confession, for example, states that the “chief end of man… is to glorify and praise God forever.” We go to church because we can’t find our salvation anywhere else than in God. “Then Simon Peter answered and said unto him, Lord to whom shall we go? for thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). The apostles further established this when they refused to stop preaching Jesus after the Pharisees told them to stop their preaching. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). We do derive blessings from church, but they are spiritual rather than earthly in nature. God admonishes, strengthens and comforts us through the preaching of His word and confirms our faith through the use of the sacraments.  We also strengthen and confirm each other’s faith by interacting with each other as friends  and in Bible studies. We do go to church for our own benefit and profit, but not in the way that Joel and Victoria Osteen think. God’s goal is not our happiness, but His glory. Our goal too should be God’s glory. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:20). May God grant that this be the case!

Kevin Rau

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