Hello Big Bible people, how are you? You’ve caught me at an awkward moment, I’m afraid. I’ve been in Seoul for the last month with my best friend Fr Koala and today we’re getting ready to leave.We’ve had a wonderful time in Korea but we didn’t attend a single church service. We thought about going to the very pretty Anglican cathedral next to the British Embassy in central Seoul. We also asked about mass times at the big red Roman Catholic church near our flat. In the end a combination of shyness and laziness put us off both.
Humans in churches often wonder about their friends who say they’re Christian yet don’t attend services. It seems to me that there is nothing to wonder about. It is very very easy not to go to a place.
Forget about churches for a moment and think about pubs or libraries (depending which one you rarely visit). If going to the pub or library involves losing time with loved ones at home, an awkward journey or a battle with your own shyness, of course you won’t go.
For regular churchgoers the church is like family. The church is a friendly and reassuring place and part of weekly habit. People who don’t go to church have no sense that it is a familiar and comfortable place. I suppose this is why it is a good idea to have some church meetings in secular places that are familiar to everybody.
The other issue is why go to church at all. Many Christians say that you don’t need to attend in order to follow Christ. This seems logical if you believe that our mission as Christians is to become kind and decent souls. There are clearly many very nice people who don’t go to church… are many of them online?
If you believe that the Eucharist feeds us in some way, or that we can not do without Bible teachings from worship leaders and clergy, or that we need to be part of the church community in order to spiritually develop, then of course church attendance is necessary.
I am one and half years old and for much of my life have been puzzling over the question of why go to church. I am a clergy chicken in the hedgerow Church of England, so I really ought to know.
I think the best answer is that the reason for going to church is different for all of us. We have unique requirements. This snail might need to be part of a church community to cure his big head and pretentiousness. That robin may be in desperate need of teaching from the pulpit because she cannot read the Bible herself. The mistake some of us make is to assume that we all go to church for the same reasons.
Fr Koala has just reminded me that we also go to church to worship God. That is clearly true for Fr Koala, but not for me. I can worship God anywhere I like. I think if all Christians thought like Fr Koala, everybody who believed in Jesus would go to church. They would not be put off by early starts or uncomfortable seating or even (and this is a commonly cited reason for not going to church) the behaviour of other churchgoers.