1. It's Strange. Do you know what it feels like to walk into a church for the first time? It can be uncomfortable. You're not sure where to go. You wonder if you're dressed appropriately. People are either REALLY glad you're there (and let you know with each awkward handshake), or they don't pay much attention to you at all. You're not sure what to expect during the service. Will you know any of the songs? Are you supposed to take notes? Is anyone going to ask you to close your eyes, lift a hand, or walk the aisle? Are you supposed to take communion?
Church gatherings feel strange because their purpose is strange. Christians gather in response to the belief that God created them, that they have sinned against Him and deserve eternal punishment, and that Jesus came to save them. This is especially polarizing when you discover Christians are convinced God supernaturally teaches them through His Word. In fact, Christian gatherings are structured in such a way that believers have opportunities to read the Word, sing the Word, pray the Word, preach the Word, and see the Word (in Baptism and the Lord's Supper). All of this is done in effort to bring glory to God by reminding one another that Christians are united as brothers and sisters in Christ, free from sin and death, and called to live as citizens of Heaven with God as their King. Going to church is strange.
2. It's Demanding. Churches demand a lot from the people who attend them. During a typical gathering, the congregation will be asked to participate in a number of ways. They will be instructed to stand and be seated several times. They will be encouraged to sing and often directed to sing loudly. They may be asked to join in the corporate reading of Scripture. They will be asked to bow their heads in prayer. They will be invited to pay attention to a sermon and likely challenged to change their behavior, or at least their thinking in response to the message. Oh, and don't forget about the offering plate! Most churches ask their parishioners to give a minimum of 10% of their income to support the ministry. Often the church will also ask you to become a member, to submit to the leadership and fellow members, to participate in the the work of the ministry, to attend additional church functions, and to share the Gospel with family, friends, co-workers, and strangers. Going to church is demanding.
3. It's Painful. We live in a culture that celebrates tolerance. This stems from an underlying desire to be accepted, regardless of belief or practice. As a result, society has generally agreed that there is only one rule: you can live however you want, as long as you aren't hurting anyone. You are influenced by this rule everyday. You're encouraged to listen to your heart, to ignore anyone who threatens your happiness, and to believe that you're good enough just the way you are. The church could not disagree more.
If you attend a Bible teaching church, you will be informed that you are not good enough. You will be labeled a sinner and an object of God's wrath. You will no longer be encouraged to listen to your heart, but taught that your heart is deceptive and cannot be trusted. Your life won't be measured according to the standard of society. Instead, you'll be held to an impossible standard -- perfection. Going to church is painful.
If going to church is strange, demanding, and even painful, why would anyone go? The decline in church attendance reveals that not many have been able to come up with a good response. Still, week after week, churches open their doors and invite men and women to engage in foolishness.
Could it be that this is all part of God's plan? Consider God's Word found in the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 1:
 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,  so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31 ESV)
In His wisdom, God established the foolish practice of leaving this world behind and joining the ranks of His chosen people, the church. He established the local church as the agency through which His people are transformed from the pattern of this world and conformed to the image of Christ. I can think of no greater joy than to be considered a fool by the world, yet redeemed by the God who chose me according to His great wisdom!
I'll see you in church on Sunday.