I often hear from Christians who are disillusioned with the thought of going to church. Bad experiences have left a bitter taste in their mouths and in most cases they’ve given up entirely on the practice of attending a local church. Here is a letter from one:
I was reading your instructions on how to grow as a Christian, where you state that we need to go to church. Well that’s where I have to differ, because it does not sit well with me when the church’s concern is one’s income. I have been to several churches and they always ask about income. I understand that the church needs funds to operate, but to tell someone that they need to give ten percent is not right … I have decided to go online and do my Bible studies and use the internet to obtain information about following Christ and to learn about God. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Peace be with you and may God bless you.
(Most of my reply to Bill’s letter is contained in this article. I am pleased that his response was favorable: “I really appreciate you pointing out the various passages and I will keep looking,” he said.)
If you have serious doubts about the importance of church attendance, I hope you, too, will keep looking into the Scriptures.
Does the Bible say you have to go to church?
Let’s explore several passages and consider numerous biblical reasons for going to church.
The Bible tells us to meet together as believers and to encourage one another.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (NIV)
The number one reason to encourage Christians to find a good church is because the Bible instructs us to be in relationship with other believers. If we are part of Christ’s body, we will recognize our need to fit into the body of believers. The church is the place where we come together to encourage one another as members of Christ’s body. Together we fulfill an important purpose on the Earth.
As members of the body of Christ, we belong to each other.
… so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (NIV)
It is for our own good that God want us in fellowship with other believers. We need each other to grow up in the faith, to learn to serve, to love one another, to exercise our spiritual gifts, and to practice forgiveness. Although we are individuals, we still belong to one another.
When you give up on attending church, what’s at stake?
Well, to put it in a nutshell: the unity of the body, your own spiritual growth, protection, and blessing are all at risk when you’re disconnected from the body of Christ. As my pastor often says, there’s no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian.
Christ’s body is made of many parts, yet it is still one unified entity.
1 Corinthians 12:12
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 12:14-23
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 12:27
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (NIV)
Unity in the body of Christ does not mean total conformity and uniformity. Although maintaining unity in the body is very important, it is also vital to value the unique qualities that make each of us an individual “part” of the body. Both aspects, unity and individuality, deserve emphasis and appreciation. This makes for a healthy church body, when we remember that Christ is our common denominator. He makes us one.
We develop the character of Christ through bearing with one another in the body of Christ.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (NIV)
How else will we grow spiritually unless we interact with other believers? We learn humility, gentleness and patience, developing the character of Christ as we relate within the body of Christ.
In the body of Christ we exercise our spiritual gifts to serve and minister to one another.
1 Peter 4:10
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (NIV)
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (NIV)
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (NIV)
We will discover a satisfying sense of fulfillment when we begin to carry out our purpose in the body of Christ. We are the ones who miss out on all the blessings of God and the gifts of our “family members,” if we choose not to be a part of Christ’s body.
Our leaders in the body of Christ offer spiritual protection.
1 Peter 5:1-4
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder … Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (NIV)
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (NIV)
God has placed us into the body of Christ for our own protection and blessing. Just like it is with our earthly families, being relational is not always fun. We don’t always have warm and fuzzy feelings in the body. There are difficult and unlovely moments as we grow together as a family, but there are also blessings that we will never experience unless we become connected in the body of Christ.
Need One More Reason to Go to Church?
Jesus Christ, our living example, went to church as a regular practice. Luke 4:16 says, “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” (NIV)
It was Jesus’ custom—his regular practice—to go to church. The Message Bible puts it like this, “As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place.” If Jesus made it a priority to meet together with other believers, shouldn’t we, as his followers, do so also?