Over the years I have heard many try and explain why going to church is important; or answer the question some may ask, "What do you get out of church?"
The following piece sounds the depths of why we go; he puts words to the many thoughts and affections that we feel when we join with others for worship. From the heart of a true mystic, not a simple "fast food" read, but a compelling look into the heart of the worshipper.
"It is universally felt that devotion must sometimes quit the solitude of the cell, and forget its mere individual wants, and speak as from humanity's great heart to God.
To this house we come, my friends, drawn not by arbitrary command which we fear to disobey; not by self-interest, temporal or spiritual, which we deem it prudent to consult; not, I trust, from dead conventionalism, that brings the body and leaves the soul; but by a common quest of some holy sprit to penetrate and purify our life; by a common desire to quit its hot and level dust, and from its upland slopes of contemplation we come to inhale the serenity of God; by the secret sadness of sin, that can delay its confessions and bear its earthliness no more; by the deep though dim consciousness, that the passing weeks do not leave us where they find us, but plant us within nearer distance, and give us a more intimate view, of that fathomless eternity, wherein so many dear and mortal things have dropped from our imploring eyes. It is no wonder that in meditations as solemn as these, we love and seek each other's sympathy.
It is easy, not doubt, to journey alone in the broad sunshine and on the beaten highways of our lot; but over the midnight plain, and beneath the still immensity of darkness, the traveller seeks some fellowship for his wanderings. And what is religion, but the midnight hemisphere of life, whose vault is filled with the silence of God, and whose everlasting stars, if giving no clear light, yet fill the soul with dreams of immeasurable glory?
There is however no necessary fellowship, as of saints, in the mere assembling of ourselves together; but only in the true and simple spirit of worship. All these occasions of devotion assume that we already have some affections to express; that we have discernment of the divine relations of our existence; that we have souls seeking to cry out in prayer, and waiting to lie down before God in tears.
The services of this place are quite mistaken by those who look on them as the means of obtaining a religion non-existent yet; who see in them only the instruments of self-discipline; who perform here no personal act of the mind, but passively wait such operation as may befall them; or who assume in their mental offerings, not the desires and emotions which they really experience, but those instead which they only ought to feel, and hope to realize at last by persevering in a false profession. The lips are to follow the heart and cannot lead it; and we are here, not to make use of God for the sake of our devotion, but to pour forth devotion for the sake of God." Martineau.