It’s easy to criticize church leadership. Very easy.
Every time I start to mount that horse, I’m reminded of the fact that I’ve never walked one day in their shoes, with a verse from Paul coming to mind: “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Rom. 14:4).
So when I look at studies showing the consistent decline in church attendance, rather than compile a laundry list of complaints as to why that might be, I decided instead to think back to a time when I was so drawn to church that I literally ran to it as often as I could. I came up with four particular, positive attributes that sparked my desire to be there every time the doors swung open.
Where Bible exposition is center stage
As a believer, I’m constantly hungry for God’s food, which comes from His Word. Like Peter says, all Christians, “long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2).
The church I ran to was one where the Bible took center stage and was preached in expositional style. If I came without my Bible, I was handicapped as the message was preached; I couldn’t take notes in its margins and any nuggets of gold mined from it were mostly lost.
Every time I learned a new truth that came from the exposition of Scripture, I left on cloud nine – something I still experience today when I listen to great Bible teachers during my gym workouts. What happens is the glory of God – His “weightiness” which is what the Greek term for “glory” means – grows bigger inside me.
John MacArthur puts it like this: “What glorifies God is the exposition of scripture. Let me tell you very simply why. In the Bible God is revealed. God’s glory is on display through the biblical record. God puts himself on display in scripture. The preacher then has one clear compelling duty and that is to display the glory of God by the exposition of scripture.”
Where you fellowship with hungry believers
I remember a friend of mine years ago talking about how he and his wife, in addition to attending our church, kept adding more Bible studies to their weekly schedule. He looked at me and said, “We just can’t get enough!”
Talk about a living, breathing example of the love for God.
A second great thing about the church I ran to was that I was able to rub elbows constantly with other believers who craved the Word of God like me. I wasn’t alone in my pursuit of God’s wisdom and knowledge.
In Psalm 119, David says: “Oh how I love Your Law” (vs. 7), with the interesting thing about that statement being it doesn’t say, “how I know Your Law”, but “how I love Your Law.” Like A. W. Tozer said, “The devil is a better theologian than any of us and is a devil still.”
A true love of God always manifests in a love for His Word and I appreciated how my church encouraged deep Bible studies with other believers. Without them, churches that are 9-months pregnant with unbelievers who stay unbelievers begin to experience an unfortunate lose-lose situation over time.
A pastor at one of our satellite campuses told me years ago that surveys they’d taken of attendees showed little desire for in-depth Bible studies so they nixed them. Such results make perfect sense when most of your church-goers don’t have real saving faith: unbelievers don’t crave biblical instruction.
What ends up happening is the actual believers in the church are starved of God’s Word, and end up leaving, and the unsaved attendees are never challenged and convicted from Scripture so they remain in their unsaved state and quietly guide the church into irrelevance.
Edward John Carnell sums up the situation when he writes, “Since people simply are not thirsty for the water of life, they do not drink. If this hypothesis should prove true, one may conclude that modern man’s predicament stems out of a want of appetite, not a want of food and drink. The heart cannot be filled until it realizes its antecedent emptiness.”
Where you worship with vs. being sung at
One of the most breath-taking experiences for me as a Christian was being at a Promise Keepers conference and singing “All hail the pow’r of Jesus’ name” with 10,000 other men. That’s unusual for me because I’m not a very emotional person, which means I’m usually more cerebrally attracted to the message time vs. singing worship songs at church.
However, the worship crew at my old church turned that around for me. They knew how to involve you with familiar worship music while at the same time teaching you new songs that were repeated enough so you could learn them, with the end result being they found their way into your heart and glorifying God through them was a joy.
The easiest way for me to describe it is that it allowed you to worship with everyone vs. being sung at in a concert-styled way with little congregation participation.
Where you’re involved and needed
The last thing that had me running to church as often as I could was my involvement. Teaching classes, small group studies, talking about Christ with those coming forward during a service who needed direction and more had me using my spiritual gifts and serving the body with loads of joy.
When your church needs and wants you exercising your spiritual gifts, you stay. We’re all driven by God to flex whatever spiritual gift muscles we’re given (see the 12th chapters of Romans and 1 Corinthians), with the goal being to make a meaningful contribution to His kingdom and glorify Him through their use.
I hope that you’re involved in a local body of Christ where you enjoy hearing God’s Word taught with other eager believers, where worship time is meaningful and participatory, and where you’re able to use your spiritual gifts to serve. If you are, I’ll bet you run to it every chance you get.
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.