To be honest, it feels kind of weird to be writing a blog that’s centered around the question of whether or not Christians should attend church. Actually, weird is not the word I should use to describe how it makes me feel to address this. I’d be far more accurate if I used the word saddened.
Yet, how I feel about writing this is really irrelevant because it needs to be written.
Here are the facts: Nationally, church attendance among professing Christians is lackluster, at best. Truth is, a great number of those who would actually reply, “Yes!” to an opinion poll which ask, “Do you attend church regularly?” are wildly inconsistent when it comes to faithfulness to attending the assembly of a local body of believers.
So, what’s up? Why the massive cultural shift? How did professing Christians go from believing in and putting into practice their commitment to the local church to sporadic obedience to Gods command? The shift that’s taken place over the last 20 years is staggering (not gonna bore you with statistics but numbers don’t lie).
Some may cite busyness and I won’t argue with the fact that culturally, we’re busier than ever (to our detriment, by the way). Yet there are busy people with big families and even bigger schedules that are faithful to the church so that can’t be it. If anything, that’s just a issue of priority. We make time for that which matters to us. Always have and always will.
Others might add that Sunday is the only day they have to rest or “have family or recreation time”. Again, I’ll have to call a timeout here. Many people and families who have the same number of hours in the day are still faithful to assemble on the Lords Day with The Lords people. I’d have to say this is really an issue of good time stewardship (of which we’ll all one day give an account).
So what is it that has caused this massive downturn in church attendance?
I think the answer is so simple that it’s easy to miss. It’s not an answer that is going to get a lot of “amens” but I’m not fishing for them anyway:
It’s a heart issue.
It really is. We are quick to point at the heart when other sins are committed, and rightly so. If I’m disobeying Gods Word in committing adultery, I’d hope you’d point at my heart not the problem I have with being too busy for obediance. If I’m rebelling against Gods Command to “not lie”, I hope you’d love me enough to deal with my heart and not justify it with some nonsensical excuse.
So, when we’ve thumbed our noses at Gods command to “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it Holy (seperated)”, I plead with you…please understand, this is a heart issue.
Now, if this is hitting you square between the eyes, please know that I’m not writing from a place of condemnation (Romans 8:1) but rather with hope that the Holy Spirit might bring whatever measure of conviction you need in order to get your heart right on this issue so that you’ll once again find the abundant life that’s available through surrendering to Gods Word.
As I often say, if we need a change of heart, it’s going to come from a changed mind because what we believe determines how we behave. For this reason, prayerfully consider a few reasons why, as a Christian, faithful church attendance can’t be a mere option but must be a way of life:
- Because Jesus Said So.
We should should be able to stop right here because it should be sufficient but I’ll continue…
As already mentioned, when Moses came off the mountain with the 10 Commandments, one of those commandments concerned the Lords Day. We’re to “keep it Holy”. That means, in part, to keep it seperate. It’s not our day, it’s His.
Jesus Himself believed this. In fact, He was dedicated by His parents in the Temple (Luke 2:21-40), attended Temple (even astounding those present by teaching there as a young boy) & much of His public ministry was conducted at the Temple. To be a follower of Christ is to pattern our lives after His. Church attendance is included in that pattern.
Gods Word is really clear on this subject. Try as we may to justify our rebellion, there’s no grey area here. The author of Hebrews put it rather bluntly in chapter 10, verse 25, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together as some do”
At the end of the day, faithful church attendance is really one of the most basic Christian behaviors. It’s simple obedience to Christ and His Word.
- Because You Need The Church
That statement might have caused you to bristle a little bit. If so, we’ve got to go back to the heart. Pride (which God hates) says, “I need no one”. Humility (which God loves) says, “I can’t do life alone”.
The fact is, you do in fact, need the church. So do I.
We are interdependent (1st Cor 12:27). We’re born with a “longing for belonging”, with a need for others to pour into our lives, the need for a spiritual family. It’s in the context of the church that we receive the encouragement that we need to deal with the inevitable valleys of life (Heb 3:13), the nourishment we are dependent upon (Acts 2:42) and the fulfillment that we’re all searching for and that’s only found in a thriving relationship with Jesus (1 Peter 1:16). You need the church.
This past week, I spent a few days on a island with a big group of middle and high schoolers. We had nothing but Jesus and each other (the church) and that was enough. It’s enough for you, too.
- The Church Needs You
In 1 Cor 12, we find that every Christian is given “spiritual gifts” upon conversion. These gifts are varied and specifically imparted. Their purpose, in part, is to build up the body of Christ. No person or gift is a “small deal”. Friend, the church needs you. When you aren’t present, neither is your gift and that’s hurting the mission of God through His people.
You see, we’re a team. What happens if the QB takes the game off? What if a offensive lineman fails to show up? The team doesn’t perform up to its potential, right? Same is true with the church.
I hear often from sports parents (which is another blog for another day), “We won’t be here Sunday, he/she has a game and the team is counting on them”. Oh, that we’d have the spiritual eyes and conviction to see the church as a team that needs all of its players!
The team needs you!
- The Next Generation Is Watching
There is a wonderful promise found in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way that he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from that way”.
I hate to use the old adage, “monkey see, monkey do” but it’s applicable, y’all. Here’s what I know: what’s important to me will likely be what’s important to my children. There’s no way around that. My greatest desire is to see each of my three kiddos grow into champions for Christ and I know that if I’m living in open rebellion to Christ, that’s very unlikely to happen. If I’m thumbing my nose at Gods command (any of them), I’m essentially leading those He has entrusted to me into a sinful life. They are watching me. They are following me. The question is “what are they seeing and where am I leading them?”.
- A Lost World Is Also Watching
Jesus gave us a Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. He even promised to be with us and to equip us fulfill the mission He’s given (Acts 1)!
He has called us to be His “Ambassadors” (2 Cor 5:20). That means we’re His representatives. That’s a pretty big responsibility, isn’t it? Especially when you consider the fact that salvation for our lost neighbors, family and friends hangs upon what they think of Jesus and what they think of Jesus hangs upon what they think of us, His earthly representation. We really are the only Bible that they will be reading so what does a story in which we profess to know and love Jesus but flat out refuse to do what He says say to them? Is He not authoritative over our lives? Does His Word to us not matter? Do we get to pick and chose which commands to obey and which ones we can rebel against?
What are they reading when they pick up the book of your life? Glad submission or sinful rebellion?
Does it matter whether or not a Christian faithfully attends church?
Be careful here…your answer reveals the condition of your heart.
Love, grace and hope,