Three Reasons Why We Should Attend Church
Sunday mornings do not always run smoothly. The alarm doesn’t go off, the kids are tough to wrangle, and traffic is predictably ridiculous. Amid all the flurry, we might ask ourselves, “What’s the point in going to church, anyway?”
In our independent yet mass-connected society, we equate church with other social meetup options as just that: an option. According to Pew Research, two of the top reasons why those polled did not regularly attend church were:
They practice their faith in ‘other ways’ (37%),
No reason is ‘very important’ (26%).
The online streaming church service is also a growing philosophy amongst denominations, and while there are seasons where this convenience is a major blessing (COVID-19 pandemic, anyone?), it can never match the richness of the faithful gathered in person.
Though circumstances may cause us to miss a service once in a while, we know we should make an effort to attend regularly, and not just for the sake of routine.
In Jeremiah 6:16, the prophet encourages us to “ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” In this same spirit, we should consider how much Scripture, and the early church that obeyed it, cherish gathering for worship. Not as an option or benign ritual, but as a life-giving grace from God.
The Gathering of Believers Has Always Been A Staple of Christian Life
Throughout Scripture, we find that the Apostles instinctively sought out and encouraged fellow followers of Jesus to meet.
After the Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost, Luke writes in Acts that those who were saved,
“devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47).
This story from Acts shows us that a consequence of the manifestation of God’s spirit is the giving and receiving of community.
Gathering was also encouraged by St. Paul in his letters (1 Cor. 14:26-31, Col. 3:16, Eph. 5:19, 1 Tim. 4:13), accompanied by exclamation of his personal longing for when he could be present with the churches he wrote to.
The author of Hebrews also expressed such a plea when he wrote, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 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.” (Heb. 10:23-25)
We see this commitment to meeting together continue in the lives and writings of the early Church. Justin Martyr described the church services of early Christians as incorporating times of prayer, teaching from the Gospels, sharing the Apostles’ memoirs, baptizing new believers, sharing resources with the poor, and taking communion together.
Though our modern understanding holds a looser grip on public worship than those who came before us, the mandate given by scripture and put into practice by the early church should be something we strive for today. Created for community in the Lord’s image, man is not, as the poet John Donne wrote, an “island.” Rather, we are a people “set apart” for God (1 Peter 2:19, Psalm 4:3) and bound together under His name (Rom. 12:3-13). Not as a dogmatic ritual or loose social gathering, but “the communion of saints” as identified in the Apostles’ Creed and alluded to in Matthew 18:20, where Jesus promises, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” When we pray together as one church, God is with us.
We attend church with mind, body, and soul
When we look at the way the inspired Word and the early church speak about gathering, we see that much of the language they use deals in physical proximity.
Consider that the metaphor of Christ as the head of a body and the Church as that which makes up the members is unique to Christianity (Rom. 12:4-5, 1 Cor. 12:12, 27, Col. 1: 18, 24, Eph. 5:23). Even the sacraments of our faith do not imply a bodiless gnosticism, but imbue holistic meaning to human faculties. In communion, the physical act of eating the bread and drinking the wine symbolize the atoning sacrifice of Christ’s body broken and blood spilled for us. In the same way, water baptism is a physical submersion underwater that is an expression of our being ‘buried in the likeness of Christ’s death and raised in the likeness of His resurrection.” These things are done together as one church, one body.
Paul also spoke with solemn importance to Timothy about how deeply he should prioritize preaching the Word of God. (2 Timothy 4:1-2) As sinners, we need to preach the Gospel to ourselves daily, as well as have the word of God taught to us as often as we can. While taking in a live or recorded sermon is a great temporary measure afforded by modern technology, it lacks the luster of hearing the Word God preached locally and in person. The Christian life is meant to be lived in service to each other alongside the local pastor, the local congregation, and the local family. Called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, we also evangelize and minister locally too, calling people to submit to the Lordship of Christ and worship Him alongside us. A livestream can connect us temporarily, but it can’t be the chain on our anchor.
This anchoring does not end with the closing of the formal service. It exists in the casual and deep conversations held afterward, the post-church lunch plan that gets made at the last minute with someone new, the questions your kid asks on the ride home. These are moments that we miss when we neglect to meet together.
Mark Dever writes, “The proper ends for a local congregation’s life and actions are the worship of God, the edification of the church, and the evangelization of the world. These three purposes in turn serve the glory of God.”
To be “in spirit” with the church is a good thing, but being present ‘in body’ incorporates the whole man, created in God’s image. Jesus said that the world would know we are His disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35), and the Sunday morning gathering seeks to foster that love and togetherness. Not to mention the congregational singing. Close your eyes and listen to the voices around you sometime. Be encouraged by the song of the saints.
The church gathering is practice for eternity
One of the most beautiful passages of Scripture is Paul’s assertion that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess “that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10-11). As Christians, we know that our life is one of ‘now and not yet.’ Righteous in Christ, but growing in righteousness. Sanctified, but growing in sanctification.
In Revelation, we see numerous accounts of worship being the prime function of those who occupy Heaven. In Rev. 5, the multitude of creatures in heaven and earth sing:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
Such is the worshipful cry of multitudes at the prophesied Supper of the Lamb that John describes them “like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out…” (Rev. 19:6-7)
It is the destiny of the Christian to worship God in the presence of other Christians. Why shouldn’t we start now?
God, who created us for community, invites us to gather together under His banner as a foreshadowing of the true communion we will have with Him and our fellow saints in eternity. Church services are but a glimpse of what’s to come. So let’s not neglect to meet together, even as the Day draws near.