We tend to make time for the things that are important to us, and our families. So, what’s the Big Deal about coming to church? What does it benefit me? Am I hurting anyone by not coming? What if I’m not being encouraged there?
As someone who has at various times walked away from church, enjoyed having someone ask me where I was Sunday morning, and “dragged” to church most of my young life, I know what it’s like to not want to go, feel like I don’t belong there, and get the sense of condemnation for my lack of church attendance.
A few years ago, my wife and I landed in a new town. We tried a more traditional church, then a modern church, and got involved in young children’s ministry. We knew that we were “supposed” to go to church but didn’t often feel that we were part of the local family.
I began to write to blow off some steam, to try to share what I was learning in my so-called walk with the Lord, and to try to figure things out. As someone who felt lost and not really knowing how to live the Christian life, without a mentor or a Barnabas, I just kind of felt my way through things. I wrestled with questions, struggled with doubts, and prayed for signs.
As I wrote, I blasted the “church” for not doing what it should be doing- even though I still see that- I tended to focus on what was not happening, how the church failed to reach out to newcomers and failed to include them as family. I wrote a piece called “Say Something I’m Giving Up on You- or Why I’d Love to Join a Church- and incorporated some of my less than positive church experiences in it.
I knew that as a believer in and follower of Jesus that I needed to be obedient and find a local body of believers to worship with and grow to be more like Jesus with. I wasn’t a church hopper or shopper, I was trying to find the right fit- a church that was theologically sound, that loved and welcomed people and cared about by spiritual growth.
Eventually, my wife and I found a church home. I again wrote a piece, this one called This is Home. She is not a perfect church- we disagree on political matters, what to do with immigrants, and those of different faiths. My wife and I have still struggled with a sense of belonging and wrestled with wanting to go every Sunday. But she is our Home.
As we began to find our fit- our giftedness that fit into the puzzle of the body of Christ at this church- we began to experience what He intended, Community. So, I thought it appropriate to re-examine my position on church attendance and if or why it even matters.
The Bible tells us we need to attend church, so we can worship God with other believers and be taught His Word for our spiritual growth. The early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). This is described as Koinonia, a Greek word often translated as fellowship but with several different meanings throughout the New Testament.
As believers, we can and should thrive on fellowship with other believers and the teaching of God’s Word. Church is the place where believers can love one another (1 John 4:12), encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13), and “spur” one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). We can serve one another (Galatians 5:13), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), honor one another (Romans 12:10), and be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32).
When we place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, we become a member of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). For a church body to function properly, all of its “body parts” need to be present and working (1 Corinthians 12:14–20). It’s not enough to just attend a church; we should be involved in some type of ministry to others, using the spiritual gifts God has given us (Ephesians 4:11–13). A believer will never reach full spiritual maturity without having that outlet for his gifts, and we all need the assistance and encouragement of other believers (1 Corinthians 12:21–26).
Weekly church attendance is in no sense “required” for believers, but someone who belongs to Christ should have a desire to worship God, receive His Word, and fellowship with other believers.
Jesus is the Cornerstone of the Church (1 Peter 2:6), and we are “like living stones . . . being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). As the building materials of God’s “spiritual house,” we naturally have a connection with one another, and that connection is evident every time the Church “goes to church.”
Church is not something we do individually. It is something we do collectively. A very important aspect of Christian life is not just what you do by yourself but also what you do together with other people. Biblically, the church is considered to be the “family of God”. We understand family to be a group that is mutually dependent on each other. The same goes for the church. If we don’t attend church, we are negating what God intends for His people: community. As followers of Christ, we are called to do what Jesus has done. Just as Jesus would go to church, we as followers should do the same. We are called by God to do so.
Church is important for fellowship. It is also a place where we come together to not only hear God’s Word, but also encourage each other. We do this not only through prayer, but also by being involved in classes, groups and serving where we get to know, pray, help and encourage others on an intimate level. Church is a good habit and when it is a regular part of our practice, we benefit and those who we are in community with benefit as well.
When we become Christians, we attend church not simply because it’s a good habit for growing in spiritual maturity. We join a church because it’s what Christ called us to do and who Christ made us to be – members of His body. When we are in are union with believers, we are in union with Christ.
There are many reasons Christians make for not liking or going to church. Some of the reasons are warranted. If your local church is not directed in Scripture and not centered in Christ, this is cause for alarm. If money consumes the church and is used recklessly or the church teaches false doctrine, this is not in line with the New Testament outlines for the church. If you’ve experienced any of these things, these are good reasons to leave your church and find another.
If you are rejecting the church, it’s time to examine where your heart is and why you are closing yourself off. There are many who reject worship because they are uncomfortable with the style of worship or reject mission because it’s uncomfortable. However, being a part of a community of believers is what we are called to be as Christians. If you are rejecting parts of the body of Christ, it will hinder your own spiritual growth.
Church is a place where we go to be inspired to model our lives after Jesus’, to live more Godly lives, and to discover our sense of purpose. The church helps us see that we are here to serve and to love. Instead of occasionally going to church or shutting it off all together, make church attendance a priority. It is a part of who we are as believers. Yes, there are a million other things we could be doing on a Sunday but none of these reasons outweigh being in fellowship and mission. This is what God wants for you.