This past week I had the chance to read the book I Sold My Soul on eBay by Hemant Mehta. I’ll review the book and give my impressions in another post, but I wanted to talk about one of the issues that the book raised, but never really addressed.

From reading the book one of the things that comes up is a lot about churches that didn’t make sense to the author. One of his comments for ways to improve a church was to cut down on the distractions, which in his mind means things like less singing, less hand raising, etc. Now he’s coming to a church service as a devout atheist and then critiques things that he doesn’t understand.

All of that to say, why do we go to church? Another way of phrasing the question would be: is church for Christians or for everyone?

My understanding, and the reason that I go to church, is that I can join together with other believers. When we gather I expect to learn from the sermon, worship together with my brothers and sisters through song and prayer, and get involved in helping out those of the community as well as those outside the community. Church isn’t just some social club that we go to looking for friendship (though you can find it there), we could do that anywhere!

Those things listed above could be understood just from a logical deduction of my own reasoning and understanding, but what does the Bible say about why we gather together? We find the answer in Acts 2:42-44

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

What we see in the early church is that believers gathered together for the sake of teaching, fellowship, communion, and prayer. Matches my list pretty good right? You see we need to understand why we are going to church, and have a purpose, otherwise we are just going through the motions. I know my Sunday morning could be spent doing other things, but being with other believers is important to me and my family.

So what about the other question, is church for Christians or the unbeliever? My understanding is that gathering together in the same place to perform what was listed above is for believers. We don’t really see unbelievers coming to services when the church was first founded. Paul does mention in 1 Corinthians 14:24 that the gift of prophecy can be used to convict an “outsider.”

I think today churches really take sides on this issue. We find some churches that place a lot of emphasis on bringing non-believers to church so that they can hear the message of the gospel and maybe encounter God. My thought on this is that people should be sharing the faith in the “marketplace” and save church for a time away from the world. Does that mean that if an unbeliever shows up on our door step that we need to turn them away? Of course not! We should gladly welcome all would come to our services, but when that person is confused and has questions we should be understanding of that fact and not judge them for not knowing any better.