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Aug 08 2012

Do Christians have to attend church?

Do Christians have to attend church regularly according to the Bible?

Although there is no direct, specific command in the New Testament that Christians must attend formal services in a church building, we have many strong examples from Jesus and the apostles.

It was customary for Jesus and His apostles to attend Sabbath services at either the Temple in Jerusalem or at a synagogue if they were away from Jerusalem:

Mark 1:21, Mark 6:2, Luke 4:16, Luke 6:6, Luke 13:10, Acts 13:14, Acts 17:1-2, Acts 18:4

There are several excuses people have for not going to church.  I’m familiar with them because I’m guilty of having used several of them in the past to justify not going. That being said, I have known from early on in my Christian walk that God’s will is that we regularly attend church because He communicates this clearly in His Word. My disobedience in the past resulted in negative consequences in my life because God always knows and guides us into doing what is in our best interest. When we follow our own will, however, we will often not do what is in our best interest.

No doubt there are other excuses we can come up with for not going to church, but the following are some of the ones I have used and am aware of.

EXCUSE:

I can go online with my computer to communicate with other believers, listen to sermons, and do my Bible study, so I do not have to leave my home to “do” church.

ANSWER:

Hebrews 10:24-25 — And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

This is a relatively new excuse for not going to church since the Internet is relatively young. While the Internet is being used by God to connect people all over the world and spread His Kingdom, it is not a substitute for attending a local church if we are physically able to get out of our homes and go to church.

I would not be posting articles on this Christian blog if I did not believe the Internet is of value to God’s Kingdom, but the bottom line on church attendance is that it’s clearly God’s will for us to meet with other believers locally, not just by long-distance. We can come up with all sorts of excuses, but meeting together with other believers in a local church is God’s will and not something negotiable, according to His Word.

EXCUSE:

Church is repetitive and boring. You hear the same things over and over again.

ANSWER:

1Chronicles 16:29 — Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;

The primary reason to attend church is to glorify, praise and worship God, not to see what church can offer us, or to be entertained. For many years my mindset on going to church was to see what church had to offer me, but we should attend church with the mindset of what we have to offer God, not just what we can take from church to benefit us.

One of the most important reasons to attend church, if not the most important, is to come together with other believers to thank, worship and praise God. That should be our focus and reason for going, not what church can do for us.

We do hear many of the same things over and over again in church because we absolutely need to hear God’s truths over and over again. One of the most important ministries we have towards each other is to continue repeating God’s truths to one another, because Satan, the father of lies, repeats the same lies and deceptions to us over and over again.

My experience has been that when the living Word of God is communicated through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are continuously provided with new and fresh insights into God that are pertinent and inspirational both practically and spiritually. I certainly cannot say that my life as a Christian has ever been boring, and I frequently hear other Christians describe every day as a new adventure.  If we find going to church boring, it  would behoove us to ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts for the reason, rather than blaming the church we are attending.

EXCUSE:

Why go to church when all they want is my money?

ANSWER:

Deuteronomy 18:3 — And this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach.

The following commentary on Deuteronomy 18:3 is excerpted from Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary:

“Care is taken that the priests entangle not themselves with the affairs of this life, nor enrich themselves with the wealth of this world; they have better things to mind. Care is likewise taken that they want not the comforts and conveniences of this life. The people must provide for them. He that has the benefit of solemn religious assemblies, ought to give help for the comfortable support of those that minister in such assemblies.”

1Corinthians 16:1-2 — Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

2Corinthians 9:7 — Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Each of us decides where we spend our time and money. We can invest them with purpose or spend them on the pleasures of the moment. Jesus said that there is an eternal investment that will not fade, rust or decay when we do good works that show our love for God and others.

Mattew 6:19-21 — “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

EXCUSE:

People at church are a bunch of hypocrites!

ANSWER:

2Corinthians 3:18 — And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

There are a few reasons one can get the impression that people who attend church are hypocrites. First, not everyone who professes to be a Christian truly is one.  To some degree in every church there will be a number of people in the congregation who are going through the motions of being a Christian, but who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus and are not being conformed into His image.

I heard a saying a while back that explains another reason we might find hypocrites attending church.

“Churches are hospitals for sinners, not sanctuaries for saints”.

This saying is true. Christians are not perfect and not immune to the sin of hypocrisy. According to the Bible, Christians are to imitate and follow Christ’s example, but the process of becoming more like Jesus is gradual and life-long. There are Christians attending church who are at many different levels of maturity in the faith.

Something that is instrumental to Christians gaining maturity is making mistakes along the way such as being hypocritical.  No doubt  we will find hypocrisy in the church as people learn through being convicted of their sin by the Holy Spirit.

However, we will also find the transforming power of God in people’s lives if we are open to seeing it. We will find people whose lives are in a slow but steady upward spiral, and who demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit as a result of the Holy Spirit working in their lives.

Galatians 5:22 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

The bottom line on hypocrisy within the church is that all humans are hypocrites because we all fail to consistently live up to God’s standard, which is perfection. The difference is that Jesus forgives the hypocrisy of believers and has sent His Holy Spirit to guide and transform those who know Him as Savior and confess Him as Lord.

Romans 10:9 — because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

EXCUSE:

Going to church is unnecessary because private prayer and Bible study can be done without others. I don’t need to attend church in order to have a relationship with God.

ANSWER:

Hebrews 10:24-25 — And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Proverbs 27:17 — Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

It is true that one can have a relationship with God without attending church, but according to the Bible, it will not be the kind of relationship God desires to have with us. Our spiritual growth will suffer if we neglect meeting together as a body. There are numerous reasons for this, one of them being that God often ministers to us through other people. He teaches, encourages, exhorts and loves us through other members of the body of Christ. It is also God’s will that we use the gifts He has given us to serve each other in the body of Christ. 1Corinthians 12:12-26

1Peter 4:10 — As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

While it is possible to pray, study the Bible, and commune with God without others, the Christian who isolates himself from the body of Christ is not aligned with God’s will and will not experience the spiritual growth that comes through fellowship with other believers, corporate worship, and serving God through serving other brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

Romans 12:4-5 — For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Many of us sense God’s presence in a powerful way outdoors, then decide that all we need is to just experience Him when we are out enjoying nature. It becomes an excuse for us to forsake meeting together regularly with other Christians. Experiencing God outdoors is wonderful, but according to the Bible, it is not an acceptable substitute for regularly going to church. Spending time alone with God in prayer is essential to spiritual growth, but just as essential to spiritual growth is coming together as a body to minister to and serve each other. God is omnipresent, which means He is everywhere, and He is equally present everywhere. God is not “more” present in nature than inside a church.

The Bible does not specify that Christians are to meet together in a building. The early church met in each other’s homes, and that is just as acceptable today. There are also churches that meet outdoors. It is not the physical space or building that constitutes a church, it is the coming together of believers.

As individuals, we may experience and “see” God to different degrees in various physical locations, but God makes the fullness of His presence available to us wherever we are, and especially so when we come *together* in His name.

Matthew 18:20 — For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.”

Of course, when we come together, we are going to encounter strife and difficulties because we are not perfect, but how could we learn to forgive, love and be patient with each other if it were otherwise? If we isolate ourselves from other believers, we are isolating ourselves from what God knows we need in order to grow in Him. We develop the character of Christ through bearing with one another in the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:1-2 — I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

It’s been said that there are three spiritual pillars to a strong Christian life: personal prayer, Bible study and fellowship with other believers. To rely on less than all three is like trying to sit on a one or two-legged stool. In order to have a firm foundation and proper function, we need all three.

If you are disillusioned with church, perhaps the problem is not “church in general,” but rather the type of churches you have experienced thus far. Have you done an exhaustive search to find a good church? Perhaps you have never attended a healthy, balanced Christian church? They really do exist. I would encourage you not to give up, but continue to search for a Christ-centered, biblically-balanced church. But as you search, remember also, churches are imperfect because they are full of flawed people. However, we should not allow our flaws to keep us from a genuine relationship with God and all of the blessings he has planned for us as we relate to each other within His body.

God will always welcome us with open arms.

Colossians 3:16 — Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

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  1. Tishrei

    This is a great post. God set up the church with a hierarchy. There are elders, teachers, pastors, etc. We can find that in the New Testament. If we were to go it alone, “just me and my bible,” as I’ve heard it said, seems like it was a waste of time for God to set up a hierarchy for a congregation. Also, seems like being a Christian would be awful lonely if we were not congregating with others.

  2. Ed

    Thank you, and that’s an excellent point you make about God establishing the structure of the church. That’s pretty good evidence that His will is for us to meet together regularly.

    There’s also something that happens when we worship God together in that the worship and praise is magnified and God is glorified in a way that doesn’t happen when we praise and worship Him on our own.

    God loves for us to glorify Him by coming together in His name, and there is something spiritual that takes place when we do that’s just amazing.

    An excuse I didn’t include in the post is, “I’m too tired to go to church.”

    ANSWER:
    John 4:6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

    Jesus, being fully human as well as fully God, experienced fatigue and tiredness just like we do, yet He put the needs of others before His.

    I also cannot recall ever leaving church with less energy than before I went.

    thanks again for your kind words and comments Tishrei.

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