What good is going to church?
On an episode of "All in the Family" the other night on TV Land, the show ended with some pretty serious questions about God and life in general. Archie's wife (is it Edith?) laments over the death of someone she knew (no, I wasn't really paying attention.) In her remorse, she contemplates giving up church attendance because she doesn't see that it's doing any good. Archie chides that she needs to keep going to represent the family before God – someone's got to do it.
Not far below the surface of what is said in this episode is a very common understanding of church. This understanding takes church attendance to be a merit of grace before God: If I go to church I am achieving favor with God. As if some sort of good influence is achieved by being in church regularly, the expected result is that fewer bad things will happen in this life to people who go to church. Edith's faith (faith in church, not really in God) is shaken because this bad event occurs. She doesn't understand how God can do this to her even though she always goes to church. Subsequently, "why even go" is the question she raises.
The heart of the problem: people cannot earn favor with God. Being made right with God is a gift from God that comes by grace. [Romans 3:23] We can do nothing to earn it. It comes by grace through faith. [Ephesians 2:8-10] Good works get us nowhere. An atheist could be the kindest, most giving person you ever meet.
So what good is church? As believers, we are a part of the church because we are in Christ. Attending worship is a response of believers to knowing God. For the believer, attending church is absolutely crucial. The person who claims to know Christ but claims no need for church needs to evaluate his/her faith.
Is there any good in going to church for the non-Christian? Yes! But not in terms of earning a good standing with God. Rather, hearing God's word preached (hopefully with a true gospel presentation) and seeing believers worship are a couple of the means that God uses to bring people to faith in Christ. [Romans 10:14; 1 Corinthians 14:24-25]