Why do we need to go to church? Why does participation in a congregation play such a central role in our lives of worship? You may ask yourself these questions or find yourself trying to answer this for someone else. Here are 12 points Donald Whitney makes in his book “Spiritual Disciplines within the Church”:
- Church community is a biblical mandate (Hebrews 10:24-25). If we had no other reason, we should still go because God tells us to through Scripture.
- Church community prevents backsliding and apostasy (abandoning the faith). Neglect in attendance is one of first signs of complete apostasy.
- Church community provides brings spiritual fellowship and encouragement. Fellowship is more than socializing – it is sharing the Christian life together. Just as a child needs family to develop holistically, children of God need fellowship and encouragement to grow up in the faith.
- Church community expresses obedience to the greatest commandment to love God and love other people. Going to church communicates to others that we love God.
- We are to follow Jesus’ example. He had more pressing priorities than we do, and he still considered it important enough to attend (although it was a synagogue then).
- Participating in a church community is a testimony of support for God’s work in the world. If we don’t go, we lose the positive influence on people (in church and outside) we’d otherwise have, even if they just see us going there.
- Church enables you to hear in person the preaching of God’s word. Hearing live preaching is the best way to hear God’s word. Podcasts and videos are great, but it’s easy to dodge the uncomfortable ideas and drift towards a “have-it-your-way” Christianity. The sense of immediacy is also weakened.
- Church allows you to take the Lord’s Supper. God ordained that the church, not individuals, administer communion in its best form.
- We experience blessings in corporate worship and community we can’t experience individually. For example, we can’t create the effect of a surrounding chorus of voices or the inspiration of someone courageously sharing their testimony.
- Church community helps prevent an unbalanced Christian life. It’s easier for others to identify blind spots in your life than you can. Spiritual gifts and different vantage points keep us from error as we are known to others.
- Participating in church community helps indicate eternal life. It’s not a proof, but it is an indicator – loving fellow believers is a sign of true faith (1 John 3:14). If this is true of us, we should have desire to gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Not going helps indicate not being in God’s family. Again from 1 John, 2:19 indicates that false believers left the fellowship because they were never truly of it. If we have a hard time withstanding Christian community in general, we need to seriously explore why that is and evaluate what following Jesus means to us.
Not attending church is actually self-centered and foolish. God has given you spiritual gifts and abilities that the rest of the church body can greatly benefit from. It’s not just about you. Even if it was, you need what others have to offer.
Just as something about eating together builds bonds with others, as we gather to worship together we are united and nourished in a way that we can’t experience elsewhere.