Did you go to church on Easter? If so, do you intend to go back this coming Sunday? If you answered yes to the first question but no to the second, you are not alone. A 2015 survey by the National Retail Federation found that approximately half of the 80 percent of Americans observing Easter planned to attend church. Yet both past and recent studies suggest that far fewer will return the following week.
There are many reasons people who haven’t been in church for a while decide to go on Easter. For some, it’s less a spiritual holiday than a secular tradition involving egg hunts and wearing new attire. For others, it may be all about spending time with family or friends, a decision less of their own making than of someone else’s. Sometimes there are more weighty motivations: a recent life crisis, confusion, or guilt leading one to turn to the church for solace or direction.
Whatever the reason you went to church on Easter, God is glad you were there, not because he needs you, but because you need him. Here’s why, if this past Sunday was your first time at church in a while, you should go back next week.
1. Easter Isn’t the Whole Story
Yes, it’s the single most significant event of the Christian faith, the foundation on which everything else stands or falls. Without a resurrected Jesus, there is no Christianity. But you can’t have a resurrected Jesus if he was never born. You can’t understand why he was put on trial and condemned to die without following his steps as he traveled the Holy Land teaching and preaching, performing miracles, and proclaiming himself to be the son of God.
You can’t grasp how one man could change the course of human history without seeing how all of human history—past, present and future—points to that man and his work. For the story to make sense, you need to hear all of it. The best place to do that is in church.
2. Church Is Where God Nurtures Faith
The world has a problem called sin. Although God solved the problem once and for all by sending his son to bear the penalty for our sins, the battle continues to rage until the end of time. It is a wearying, soul-killing, and hope-destroying battle. No sooner do I leave church than the assaults on my faith begin.
The world likes to point out that church is filled with hypocrites—people who say one thing and do another. Exactly. Church is not about demonstrating our holiness, earning points with God, or cheering him on so he keeps doing the God thing. It’s about receiving God’s gifts, over and over, so we can face another day.
3. You Need a Pastor
Life is hard (see No. 2). Sometimes it is devastating. When the dark days come, we need to hear not just what God says in the abstract, but what God says to us. That’s where your pastor comes in. Your pastor knows your trials, joys, and sufferings. He knows there are times you need to hear of your sin, and times you need to hear of God’s love and grace. When you attend church regularly, you become more than just a face in the crowd, and your pastor is better equipped to bring God’s words of truth and comfort to you.
4. You Need a Church Family
It has never been clearer than it is today that the Christian is a stranger in a strange land. The Christian faith is one seeming contradiction after another, as Christians are called to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them while believing in a God who willingly gave himself over to death.
The world does not understand this kind of thinking. But your fellow Christians do. When a loved one dies and the world tells you to take comfort from your memories, the church points you to Christ and the promise of eternal life for those who die in him. Your fellow Christians speak your language, and you need to hear it weekly, not yearly.
5. The Church Needs You
The Christian faith is not just about being in a relationship with God; it is about being in a relationship with your fellow Christians. The vertical and horizontal beams of the cross remind us that God’s love flows not just from him to us, but through us to others.
I belong to a denomination that places a high value on music as a means of proclaiming God’s word. There are days—many of them—when I find myself unable to sing because the words cut too close. When I quit singing, there is someone on my right or left to continue. This is what it means to be in a community of faith. Through the church, the song goes on.
There is an oft-repeated story about a child who, in fear of a storm, called for his parents in the night. They assured him that God was watching over him and there was nothing to fear. He responded, “I know God is always with me. But right now I want someone with skin on.”
“God with skin on” is what church is all about. Maybe on Easter the church you went (got dragged?) to, instead of talking about God’s grace and the forgiveness of sins, told you how to be a better person. Maybe instead of inviting participation in a community of believers, it offered a performance. Maybe it was so big you felt invisible.
Don’t give up. God is calling and wants to see you, and you need what he is giving—not just at Easter, but every day of the year.