Are We Doing Church Wrong?



Why do you go to church?

Because it’s Sunday, and that’s what we do on Sundays?

Or maybe because you need something to hang onto if you’re going to make it through another week? A Bible verse, a thought from a sermon, an encouraging line in a song?

I’d like to suggest that you may be doing it wrong. Bear with me here.

Let’s get back to the beginning. God has graciously gathered his people into a body he calls the Church.

Why did he pick that name?

Church. In the language of the New Testament, it means “gathering” or “assembly.”

Think about it. Of all the things God could have named his people for—forgiven ones, holy ones, loved ones, redeemed ones, known ones—he chose to name us “the gathering ones”—“the people who get together regularly.”

Apparently it’s really important to God that we assemble. And if so, then it ought to be important to us as well. Why?

Paul gives us the answer in several places; I particularly like the one in Ephesians 4:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

So why do we gather? We gather so that each one of us may exercise his gifts (Eph 4:11-12) for the benefit of everyone else, to the further benefit of the body as a whole.

Well, how about that. You’re not there to get a blessing; you’re there to be one. You’re there to give, not to get.

And when everyone gives, everyone gets. When the pastor exercises his gifts in preaching, you’ll be ministered to by the sermon. When the congregation sings praises, you’ll be ministered to by the singing. But your motivation is not to receive; it’s to minister in the way that only you can, by the gifting of the Spirit.

Let me suggest a mindset for you.

If you’re a believer, you’re gifted by the Spirit in certain ways (1 Cor 12:7, 11). By the grace of God, you can minister to those around you. Maybe your gift is teaching. Maybe it’s serving. Maybe it’s mercy: listening to others and showing them grace.

When you’re with the assembly, you’re there by God’s calling—because someone there needs what you have, and you can exercise your gift(s) in ways no one else can. If your gift is mercy, your job there is to find someone who needs mercy, and dump a truckload of it all over them.

So you don’t walk into the building, find a seat in the back, and wait to get blessed. You’re on a mission; you seek. You talk to people, asking them how they’re doing, and listening to what they say, maybe asking further questions to coax the truth out of them, demonstrating that you care and that you have time to listen. And when you find someone who needs mercy—or whatever your gift is—he’s the reason you’re here today. Give him your gift.

And you can’t go home until you’ve done that, because until then you haven’t really done church.

How different would church be if everybody did?

Dan Olinger Bio

Dr. Dan Olinger has taught at Bob Jones University since 2000, following 19 years as a writer, editor, and supervisor at BJU Press. He teaches courses in theology, New Testament, and Old Testament, with special interests in ecclesiology and the Pauline Epistles.


We might say that when you come to Christ, you join the family, and a loose definition of "fellowship" is to "treat your family members in Christ like family."

Except for the throwing dishes and things at each other part, of course. :^) Seriously, if they will know we are Christians by our love, then our time together as a body ought to resemble the better parts of family gatherings.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.