I recently received a comment from a woman saying, “I don’t need another burden in my life, and going to church is just another depressing burden.” How sad it is that Christians sometimes view going to church as a depressing burden. It should be a blessing.
Part of this problem may be that many preachers burden their listeners with guilt and unfulfilled expectations. Gathering with fellow believers should give us support and encouragement. A church service should, first of all, be a time of praising God and expressing gratitude for what He has done for us as individuals and as a group. It should then be a time to share what God has done in our lives and to encourage one another.
One of the most essential parts of “going to Church” is to experience love. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “Now I am giving you a new commandment that you are to love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples by your love for one another.” Having kind words to say to each other, asking questions, expressing concerns when there is a crisis in someone’s life, and giving a hug are all part of loving one another.
Isn’t it interesting that the difference between the English words “live” and “love” is the single letter “I.” The more we take “I” out of the way, the more we can give and experience love. The Greek word translated as “love” here is “agape,” indicating caring about the worth of every person. There is joy in doing what God calls us to do, but obsessing about “I” and losing love can make us think of going to church as a depressing burden.
If you don’t understand this, I suggest you look more carefully at why you “go to church” or what you are missing if you don’t go. If your religious experience is reading an essay or watching a service on TV, you are missing the essential personal contact. If you think of going to church as a depressing burden, there is something wrong.
An atheist whose life is guided by “survival of the fittest” cannot comprehend the kind of love that Jesus taught. By my count, Jesus used the word “agapao” 108 times in the gospels. The next most common word He used for “love” was “phileo,” meaning “friendship,” which He used 18 times. Church involvement gives us a chance to consider the worth of all humans, eliminating racism, sexism, envy, jealousy, and all phobias that afflict humans.
Going to church should be a blessing. If the Church is functioning as God intended, we will leave every visit to our local congregation encouraged, uplifted, and ready to face the world and spread God’s love.
— John N. Clayton © 2024