A few weeks ago an online post from a major ministry struck a nerve when it stated the necessity of church attendance for your growth as a believer in Christ.
It's surprising to me how many Christians struggle with the idea of church attendance. We are at a crossroads in our nation on the importance of going to church. According to research, church attendance has remained virtually the same percent of our national population for the past 70 years, however, this still means there are a huge number of American Christians who are not active in a local church - in the tens of millions.
Of course, this isn't a new problem. Since the beginning of Christianity, the early leaders had to challenge this mindset, saying "Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25)
A popular Christian social media catch-phrase is, "You don't go to church, you are the church." While I get the sentiment in some ways, this is an unhealthy view, pitting "being the church" and "going to church" against each other. If we are truly "the Church," then we will surely get together with other believers regularly. We cannot "be" the church, if we don't "go" to church. Not fully anyways.
The "Church" never connotes a single, individual, lone ranger Christian just going about his Christian duties, and never gathering together to worship with other believers. The "Church" by it's very nature means multiple believers, who "where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." (Matthew 18:20)
This is both the Biblical and historical pattern set forth for us by the first followers of Jesus. They would get together weekly to worship God together, and at times even daily. They would also share community together in each other's homes. Paul and the other Apostle's letters were actually sent to these church communities that gathered in various cities to be read aloud together. Church means getting together with other believers to worship Jesus Christ, and hear the Scriptures together, and encourage one another in the faith.
Craig Groeschel shared recently, "There is something better. To worship God together and be committed to worship Him together, to hear His Word together. Do not reduce Church to listening to a podcast. It's so much more than that. It's community. It's worshiping with other, praying for others, hurting with other, serving others, being involved in the lives of others."
And here's the reality of the Biblical call to gather with other believers. There are many options for going to church for each of us. You can look for a church that is right for you. I'm not telling you to go to a certain style, type, or denomination of church - I'm simply challenging you to gather with other believers regularly to worship and hear the Scriptures.
The Biblical pattern for church is this:
- Every Christian should gather together to hear the Scriptures and worship Jesus together with other believers weekly (see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Acts 2:42; Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Romans 16:5; Acts 20:20; James 2:2; Psalm 84:4; Psalm 37:17; Psalm 92:13)
- It is also good to meet for smaller groups of Christian community in each other's homes regularly (see Acts 2:46)
- It's good to have leaders overseeing the work and needs of each local church - this is the Biblical pattern - not all of us are called to church leadership, and so we should submit to, and serve whoever God has called to lead at the place we find ourselves (see Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; Hebrews 13:7, 17; 1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Philippians 1:1b; Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Peter 5:1-2; Acts 20:17; )
- If there are believers who are unable for physical reasons to attend a church weekly, they should find a church or believers who will gather together with them regularly for worship in their own home. (see James 5:14; James 1:27)
Here are 4 powerful reasons why you should attend church weekly, and why church attendance can change your life:
1. God Said So
God tells us in His Word to "not give up meeting together." (Hebrews 10:25)
The Bible even goes so far as to call the Church the "Bride of Christ." If you love Jesus, you will love the things that He loves, and there is no one a good man loves more than His bride. The Church is this important to God, so it should be ever-important to us.
God didn't call us to gather and worship to burden us, but to bless us. Church attendance can become one of the greatest blessings in you and your family's life!
2. Worshipping Jesus Together is Powerful
Jesus lives inside of us by His Spirit when we believe in Him - this is a profoundly incredible truth!
But there is also something biblically powerful about gathering together with other believers to worship. Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." (Matthew 18:20) So he is not only lives in us by His Spirit, but He is in the "midst" of us when we gather to worship Him.
3. We Need Christian Community
All of us long for community and connection with others. God has given us this gift in gathering together for church, and in smaller groups in each other's homes. It fulfills something inside of us to do life with others, encourage each other and be authentically involved in each other's lives.
Christian TV, podcasts, books and conferences are wonderful additions to our spiritual lives, but nothing can take the place of consistent Christian community through the local church.
4. We Grow More Together Than Alone
It can be messy when we step into each other's lives. We are all human, and no one is perfect. So it requires effort and intentionality and grace from God to do life together, even as believers.
Gathering regularly with other believers becomes a refining process whereby we help each other, pray for each other and encourage each other to want to follow Christ more wholeheartedly. It is a truly beautiful thing.
Don't let excuses stand in the way of what you know God is calling you to do. God will strengthen you, and empower you to do what He has called you to do. I am praying for you -- if you have encountered past wounds from leaders or from church members -- that God will bring healing and grace to you, as you seek to follow Him, and love His Church.