I have gone to church since I was about 15 years old. Most people would think I go to church because it's how I was raised, or because it's part of my religion. While I'm not discrediting these aspects, I have to elaborate on why I love going to church so much.
For the most part, my faith doesn't exclusively require me to go to church; I'm supposed to be practicing my faith Monday through Saturday as well. So as far as the requirements of my faith (read my Bible, prayer, being in fellowship with other Christians, and serving others) I can do that all the other days and in any other setting. So I don't go to church on Sundays out of some sense of obligation.
The reality is that church is there for MY benefit. I am blessed when I go. It enhances my understanding of the Bible for future reading, it has me join with others in prayer, it has me sing and worship with others who love God like I do, and provides an opportunity for me to serve.
I don't know if I can put into words how I am blessed by going to church, or how much of a difference it makes on the rest of my week, but I can try...
I love how at church, I'm no less important or smart than the person next to me. In a society that is so "title" driven, it's so easy for me to feel of less value or competency when compared to my bosses who have degrees or even the next person that went to college for a little more training than me. It's actually pretty frequent to feel "less than" everyone else compared to education, money, cars, homes... But then I walk into church and I'm reminded, by everyone that talks to me and by the Holy Spirit, that I am of infinite value. I'm a child of God! He loved me and considered my value and died on the Cross to redeem ME. And how He walks with me, helps me, guides me is no less for me as it would be for the Pastor or the person with a nicer car in the parking lot. In light of God's economic view, I'm no less wealthier than anyone who can call on His Name. In light of the knowledge of God, He has revealed Himself to me the same way He would to anyone that wants to get to know Him. I never feel "less than" at church. And as long as we're all studying the same Bible I don't know less than anybody else.
It's refreshing to worship with other people, who are as excited about singing and dancing and praising God as I am! It brings me relief from the stress of the week... It gives me joy! God said in His Word that He is worthy of praise... and I don't know of many settings out in public where I can raise my hands or sing at the top of my lungs or dance around to my God and people wouldn't think I was crazy... Mind you, I have no fear of dancing or singing anywhere else, and the awkward stares from non-Christians when my family blesses their food at a restaurant is something we're quite used to. There's just this relief where this kind of expression is the NORM and not the oddity.
I could see how, from the outside, singing and clapping for the Lord can feel awkward. It may not feel like it's part of your personality. But (and this is something you won't understand until you are at this point) it won't matter! When you are in a relationship with Jesus Christ and also have come to know and be loved by His people, you are less aware of yourself and more aware of how good He is! Then expressing love for Jesus in a congregational setting isn't awkward at all. It becomes the most natural thing you want to do when you go to church on Sunday morning.
I love being prayed for, prayed with... I love going and being reminded by the preaching of God's Word and by the testimony of God's people that He is able! That He is strong! And that He cares! And the more I hear of God helping His people, the more I have faith to believe that He'll help me! The more I have the faith to pray for... the more hope I have. So it becomes this cycle of encouragement and hope that works the opposite to the viciousness of addiction; it builds you up instead of tearing you down. It re-energizes me.
I feel God's presence at church. I'm not saying you don't or can't anywhere else. But I really do experience Him at church. He brings light to Scripture in such a way, as the pastor is preaching, that speaks to me. It's like, the Pastor will read a verse outloud, and we are all looking at the Bible, and God will say to me, "See Maria? This is what I wanted you to understand this week. Remember when *insert example here*? I wanted you to trust Me through that circumstance. I know that you are dealing with *insert another example here* and I'm telling you, through this verse right here, that I will take care of it." There is a peace that washes over me, a joy that gets into me...
Most people would think that after spending all morning at church my tank would be full. Quite the opposite, actually. I get home wanting to sing more, to pray more. To read more of my Bible. To go back in the evening or sometime mid-week. Church doesn't drain me, it fills me. I could get into all the theology and scriptures behind the church some other time. Right now I'm trying to keep it simple; church is GOOD!
Some people get saved and then they start going to church. Others start going to church and then they get saved. Either way, glory to God! I pray that everyone who may read this may have a church they can go to where they feel their batteries recharged, so to speak. And I pray that if you are not going to church, that it won't be something intimidating or scary for you. But I just had to share what an awesome experience it is for me... and my kids are really enjoying it too!
Regardless of whether you do or don't, God is always there for you. He's waiting to hear you pray, and He is in the rescue business. He wants to meet you right where you are at and be with you. He wants you to come just as you are. I don't ever want you to feel that if you need God on Thursday night you have to wait till Sunday morning to get it right with Him. Turn to God on Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday... and then come to church on Sunday morning and be loved on, encouraged, and lifted up!