If I were to identify the most active question that is being asked at our lectures these days, this would probably be it. The question may come from an atheist who would like to convince me that Church is a corrupt institution used to enslave the minds of ignorant men and women and rob them of their earthly possessions. The question may also come from a person who has become convinced that God does exist, but sees no reason to go any further. Why give up a whole morning and perhaps an evening on the one day of the week when no other responsibility is pressing? There has been an acceleration of people asking this question who are members of the Church who have grown frustrated with Church squabbles and personality conflicts and feel they could worship in the privacy of their own homes much more profitably.
It is a basic premise of the Does God Exist? program that all aspects of the Christian system as taught in the Bible are logical and constructive even to the limited capacity of humans to understand. In this discussion, we would like to make four points about why going to Church makes sense. We are not going to deal with any doctrinal activity of worship or attempt to address a denominational issue in this discussion for a variety of reasons--the most basic of which is that these reasons are frequently more negative than positive in most people's minds.
Church Pools Resources
Any person who has studied the teachings of Jesus Christ with an eye to understanding what Christ emphasized is important will quickly realize that the Christian system involves serving others. Jesus not only taught it, but the Church of the first century practiced it. Over and over in the early days of Christianity, people used their resources to help the less fortunate. The most poignant teacher demonstration lesson in the life of Christ is the washing of his disciples' feet, with the conclusion of the lesson being "as I have done this unto you, so do it to one another" (John 13:15).
In today's world, we are blessed with an infinite number of opportunities to serve others. The problem is that there are so many opportunities that it is frequently difficult to know where to put our money and our time. The Church provides a way of pooling resources to meet needs. One of less publicized facts about churches in today's world is the fact that an enormous amount of good has been done and continues to be done by churches in spite of the attempts of the media and the skeptical world to denigrate churches. A huge percentage of homeless shelters, hospitals, drug treatment centers, hospice centers, AIDS treatment facilities, counseling centers, teaching centers, disease control centers, and on and on, are funded and staffed by churches.
As an individual, I have no way to individually address all these needs. Working with other Church members, these things can be dealt with; and the integrity and efficiency of a local Church as it deals with local needs is very high.
The Church Gives a Platform for Dealing with the Real World
There are a lot of things in life that are not easy. The death of a loved one, growing old, facing disease, having physical needs, failing at something, being rejected, dying-all of these things can be terrible, especially if you have to face them all alone. In our materially-driven world, people do not want to have to deal with these kinds of problems. The result is that people frequently find themselves totally alone when trouble comes.
Christians in the real world have the same problems everyone else has, but the Church is the support group that prevents being alone. Over and over in the Bible, the Church is referred to as the "family of God," and we always find members of the first century Church supported by their brethren. A part of the service each of us does as a Christian in serving others is to be there when someone faces a tragedy, disappointment, or defeat in life.
The people that I am closest to are the Church members who were there when I found out my son was blind, retarded, and crippled. When I meet someone with a child that has comparable problems, there is an instant bond that forms because of our common experience and belief system. In addition to the emotional and spiritual support, there is also a sharing of resources and tools to meet problems. A great deal of the success of recovery groups in areas like substance abuse, gambling, addiction, and physical abuse is because the Church provides real help in these real problems.
Church is Positive.
As an atheist, I was a very negative and fatalistic person. Life consisted of going from one frustration to the next because nothing I did brought any real meaning or value to life. Pleasure was the chief goal in life, and it was always too infrequent and too short in duration. Not only that, but my actions which revolved around "looking out for number 1" brought more than their share of bad consequences.
The contrast to my life now is amazing. In spite of some hard knocks in life, I find it hard to be down for very long. Every involvement in Church in one way or another is positive. Even negative things involve working toward a positive solution. Each new day is full of beauty and a hope for a better tomorrow. I know as a Christian that what I am enduring now is the absolute worst I will ever have to endure. Every act of worship is designed to encourage me and lift me and make things better. My own weakness and attitude may not let that happen, but that is the nature of Church.
Church Puts Me in Contact with Good People and Produces Good Families
I have been blessed with an incredible wife. In many unimportant ways, she is not very strong. Her strength is rooted in her Christian belief system. If she has a personality weakness, it is that she finds it difficult to understand how her kids and especially her husband can be so weak. Her integrity and her moral strength are greater than any human I have ever known.
How do you express the blessing of being able to never have a doubt about whether your mate is faithful to you or not? What price do you put on never having to wonder if your wife is lying? It is Church that enabled me to find such a mate and that allowed her to tolerate me. You hear about the stupid mistakes that religious figures make, but the Church is the common man and woman who live out Jesus' teachings and make it work. The vast majority of church goers are honest, moral, reliable great people.
My friends in my atheist years were as bad as I was. We stole from each other, lied to each other, used each other-and then we bragged and laughed about it. The strong survive and anything goes. Robert Lefavi said it well:
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that atheists have no morals. It's simply that they have less of a reason for morals. Morals and ethics do not serve an atheist to the extent or in the manner they serve a person with a growing awareness of God, their values are a function of and relate only to the self and not a higher power. As University of California professor Phillip Johnson says,"If we are accidental products of a purposeless cosmos, as science currently tells us, then there are no objective values which we are obligated to respect. Value is inherently a human creation in a naturalistic world."-Robert Lefavi, Reasons to Believe (Pasadena, CA: Hope Publishing House) p. 117The Church is not an human institution, but it is about humans. God gave us a design that addresses our needs and problems. Because it is full of humans, there are things that erode the effectiveness of the Church. For the most part, this happens in the leadership-not in the pews. Very few Church members are interested in a power struggle. Very few people have any monetary gain associated with the Church. Although it commands most of the media attention, it occupies very little of what Church is all about.
The Church is God's finest design, and the real world and real Christians testify loudly to that affect.
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, MayJun00.