Is it important to attend church on a weekly basis? Should believers make the weekly gathering a priority in their busy schedules? This is—in our day and age—a loaded question. And one in which there seems to be a variety of opinion.
Perhaps part of the confusion stems from our understanding of the word church. Many people instinctively understand the church to be a building. The church is somewhere you go. But in Scripture the word ‘church’ comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which means “assembly” or “called out ones”. The church, then, is a people you belong to.
This means, if you are a Christian, you don’t so much go to church, as you are the church. You don’t attend church; you gather with the church. The distinction is important because I believe it is the deficient understanding of the church as a building or a service that leads many people to have a relaxed attitude towards the Sunday gathering.
The Bible is crystal clear on the importance of the church. In fact, the Bible equates conversion to Christ with being joined to his people. In Acts 2:47, conversion to Christ is seen as “the Lord adding to the church”. In 1 Corinthians 12:27, when you are joined to the Head (Christ) you are joined to the rest of the body (the church). In 1 Peter 2 when you trust in the Cornerstone (Christ) you become part of the spiritual house (the church). In Revelation 21:9, when are united to the Groom (Christ), you become part of his bride (the church). It is undeniable—you cannot be a Christian and not be a living and active member of the church.
Yet all of this begs the question: If church is so important, why is it so neglected by so many Christians? Why is the weekly gathering of the people of God seen as a desirable yet optional extra among the smorgasbord of life’s other options and responsibilities? Why is it so often pushed to periphery of our priority list by other pursuits?
I get that attending the Sunday gathering is not always possible, especially with small children, sickness, and the like. I get that there are recreation options open to us on a Sunday morning. And I get that you might think this is all very easy for me to say considering it is my job to be at church! But still, we must ask ourselves: Have we allowed the priority of gathering together with the people of God to be usurped by the allure of convenience, comfort, sports, or whatever else?
In Scripture, church attendance is not just a suggestion; it is God’s will for believers. We are told in Hebrews 10:25 that we should: “…not [be] 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.” Even in the early church, it seems, some were falling into the bad habit of neglecting to gather with other believers.
It is passages like Hebrews 10:25 that led Charles Spurgeon to eloquently and forcefully conclude: “I know there are some who say, "Well, I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to the church." Now why not? "Because I can be a Christian without it." Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord's commands as by being obedient? What is a brick made for? To help build a house. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick. So you rolling-stone Christians, I do not believe that you are answering your purpose. You are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live, and you are much to blame for the injury you do.”
While Spurgeon was certainly not backwards in coming forward, his point remains. Active, regular, intentional involvement in the life of God’s people is God’s will for all believers. This means, we should do whatever it takes to gather together with the people of God on a weekly basis.
Moreover, besides being simply a matter of obedience, the church is the place where believers can love one another (1 Jn. 4:12), encourage one another (Heb. 3:13), spur one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24), serve one another (Gal. 5:13), instruct one another (Rom. 15:14), honor one another (Rom. 12:10), and be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph. 4:32). The church is where we partake in the sacraments together (1 Cor. 11:23-29). The church is where we are instructed in God’s Word for our spiritual growth and maturity (2 Tim. 4:2-5). The church is where we are prepared for works of service and for mission in God’s world (Eph. 4:11-12). The church is the visible and tangible display of God’s wisdom in the world (Eph. 3:10).
For these reasons and more, the church plays a vital and indispensable role in the life of every believer. To belong, contribute, and love the church is the privilege and responsibility of every believer. So, see you on Sunday!