There are many Christians who love going to church but there are also many Christians who don’t. It has become increasingly popular for Christians to stay at home and find alternative methods to practice their faith including prayer, meditation and personal Bible study. Many people who don’t attend church regularly or at all wonder what the point of going to church is if they have a personal relationship with God. While not attending church will not send you to hell or make God love you any less, it is not what God hoped for His people and can hinder spiritual growth.
First, to understand why God cares if we go to church, it’s important to understand the definition of church. Church is commonly understood to be a building used for public Christian worship but the biblical definition characterizes the church as people. We see the word church used in the Bible multiple ways. First, it is described as the body of Christ. The church is often defined as a local assembly or group of believers. Paul, who was called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, says in his greeting “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be His holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2). This is just one example of the church being defined as company or assembly.
Next, the church is defined as the body of living, individual believers. When Paul preaches the Gospel after receiving it by revelation from Jesus Christ, he says, “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13). Paul also said “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9). Both of these verses signal that the church is a body of living people.
Finally, it is defined as the universal group of all people who have trusted Christ through the ages. When Peter makes his confession of Christ, Jesus replies, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18). From these examples, we see that 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.
One reason we know that God valued church is because church it is what Jesus did. The Bible tells us, “[Jesus] went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was His custom” (Luke 4:16). This was in line with the obeying of the Ten Commandments, the forth being, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”. 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.
God wants us to go to church is because it’s a good habit. The Bible says, “Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship. But we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer” (Hebrews 10:25). Scripture tells us that it is a good habit to regularly attend church and worship. 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 experience 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.