I am meeting more and more people who claim to be Christians but who aren’t committed to, or members of, a local church. (“Church” throughout this post refers to a local gathering of believers rather than a specific meeting place or building.)
Some of these people are “church hoppers”- those who flit from church to church either to look for potential dates, or to find a specific “church experience” or those who are forever seeking the perfect church. These people never really settle anywhere, they are therefore never really accountable to anyone or anything and they prefer it this way.
Others have been hurt by Christians/churches in the past and are wary of getting burned again. This is perhaps understandable. However, the bad behaviour of the select few shouldn’t stop a true believer from persevering.
Some have allowed family or other life commitments to get in the way of regular church attendance. Meeting with other Christians has somehow slipped down the list of priorities. These are the people who loudly proclaim that you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.
There are also a number of people who haven’t been able to find a Bible teaching church in their area. Maybe they have travelled long distances in the past and become fed up with this or decided it’s not worth it. They worship alone at home.
In this day and age, there are people who trawl the internet listening to sermons from a variety of speakers or who tune in to a mega pastor from a mega church that is beamed around the world to all and sundry. This is “church” for a growing number of people.
Are these people right? Is it okay not to be involved in and committed to a local church? Consider these ten reasons why Christians should go to church.
- The Bible tells us to meet with other believers. As with all areas of Christian life, we need first to look at what the Bible says about this. “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.” Hebrews 10 vs 24-26. It seems clear that there is an expectation that Christians should be meeting together on a regular basis.
- "No man is an island." A well known quote by John Donne. We were not made to live in isolation but for relationships with other people. If we want to be effective witnesses for God then we need to build relationships with others. This should start with fellow believers. “Iron sharpens iron”Proverbs 27 vs 17
- Accountability. This is one of the main reasons professing Christians are not in church. They don't want to be accountable to anyone or anything. They want to do their own thing and free themselves of the rules and regulations of their local church. The alternative is that they submit to the church authorities until something happens that they don't like, then they just leave without a backward glance.
- Each Christian has a job to do! As Christians we are part of the universal church of Christ or the body of Christ, but we should also be serving locally in our churches. The New Testament gives clear instructions as to how local churches should be set up, led and function generally. The details cannot logistically refer to the universal church therefore the expectation is that all believers will be part of a local gathering.
- Evangelism. One of the main purposes of the church is for evangelism: reaching others with the saving message of Jesus. How can we do this if we aren’t committed to a local church? Where will we take the people we have witnessed to? Where will they be discipled or taught? How can they grow as believers or learn more? What type of example are we setting if we don’t take our faith seriously enough to meet with other believers?
- Spiritual growth. God calls certain men to lead his churches. They are gifted in teaching and preaching and have special authority for their respective roles. We miss the benefits of learning and growing as believers if we fail to put ourselves under the leadership of these men in a local congregation. This is the method that God has chosen for us to grow and mature.
- Protection from the world/putting on the armour. When I was working shifts in the police I used to find it hard to get to church but always planned to make at least one service on Sunday and to try and get to the midweek prayer meeting. I noticed a distinct difference spiritually when I failed at either of these goals. I needed a spiritual energy boost that could only properly be obtained from meeting with other Christians before I headed back to the battlefield of work. Think of the church as a light and everything outside it, including secular work, as the darkness, if that helps!
- Prayer support. Church is where we can go for encouragement, help and prayer. We need to be praying together for unsaved family members, for colleagues at work, for situations around the world and for more personal things. We need to be both praying for others and receiving prayer for ourselves. The more people who gather, the more voices in prayer.
- Worship. Worship has come to mean all sorts of things, but how many of us actually sing hymns, songs or praise to God when not in church? If we aren't regularly attending then we are missing out on a vital ingredient in our spiritual lives. There is also something very uplifting about singing together with other believers, assuming your church isn't one of those where everyone mumbles into their hymn books!
- Socialising. Some churches have taken this to an extreme. Our church services should be recognisably different from worldly events. However, our local church should be our extended family. We should want to spend time together and enjoy each other's company. I have spoken to isolated believers in Turkey, Iran and Syria who would love to be able to even find another believer local to them let alone have the privilege of meeting together, they are envious of the freedoms we enjoy!
There are probably other reasons that you can think of, feel free to comment with your suggestions or to add to these ideas. If you have done everything you can to find a Bible believing church in your area and have failed, then why not start a Bible study in your home and invite your friends and neighbours!
All true Christians should belong to a local church.