A lot of Christians don’t know quite what to do with the church. Some say they are better off not going to church. Others think the church is an option for Christians if they want. Few would be as bold to say that going to church is essential for the Christian life.
I am one of those few.
Far from thinking the church is a possible add-on or accessory for Christians, I believe that Jesus Christ came to save sinners and bring them into the church. The design of our salvation lands us smack in the middle of God’s people. Intentionally being a part/member of the church is essential for anyone wanting to follow Jesus obediently. To support this, I offer twelve reasons from Donald Whitney’s excellent book Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church for why going to church is essential for the Christian life.
Going to Church is a Biblical Requirement for All Christians. “The Bible is very plain: ‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25)…If this chapter ended here, no further proof would be needed concerning God’s will about church attendance…Ultimately whether or not you go to church is a question of whether you will obey God and submit to the authority of His Word.”
Going to Church Prevents Backsliding & Apostasy. “Church attendance is no automatic guarantee against spiritual setbacks. No Christian progresses in faith with perfect consistency. But without going to church, backsliding – or worse 0r is almost a certainty…If you can miss church and not miss church, then something is absent from your heart and faith.”
Going to Church Bring Spiritual Fellowship & Encouragement. “If a child is going to be emotionally healthy, he needs the socialization and encouragement a family can provide. in the same way, every child of God needs the fellowship and encouragement that God intends for him to receive from a church family if he is going to be spiritually healthy.”
Going to Church Expresses Obedience to the Greatest Commandment. “How can we believe we’re trying to fulfill the greatest of all God’s commandments (Mark 12:28-30), and how can we say we want to love the Lord our God with all we are, if we won’t even obey his command to meet regularly with other Christians? We should go to church because we love God more than anything.”
Going to Church Follows Jesus’ Example. “Do you want to be like Jesus? Do you realize that Jesus made it His regular practice to attend the public worship of God the Father with the people of God (Luke 4:16)?”
Going to Church is a Testimony of Support for God’s Work in the World. “(People) see where you go on Sunday…They see by this what’s important to you and that you are committed to the support of God’s work in this world…Staying away from church does not help gather people to Jesus.”
Going to Church Enables You to Hear in Person the Preaching of God’s Word. “I can understand the Christian who can’t get enough of the Word from the sermons at church, but not the one who gets enough without church.”
Going to Church Allows You to Take the Lord’s Supper. “The Lord’s Supper was given to the church for observance, not to individual Christians. This is an ordinance that should be celebrated in the fellowship of the local church.”
Going to Church Enables You to Experience Special Blessings from God. “In ways that He does not do when we worship Him alone, God blesses us with strength, instruction, and encouragement when we come together at church to worship Him.”
Going to Church Helps Prevent an Unbalanced Christian Life. “Christians who don’t attend church are usually the most unbalanced Christians. The difficulty, however, is that they don’t realize it. It’s not easy to discern when your Christian life is unbalanced. Other can usually detect a lack of balance in us better than we can see it in ourselves…The Lord uses His body, the church, to protect us against the common temptations that lead to imbalance.”
Going to Church is One Indication of Eternal Life. “Church attendance is not proof that a person has eternal life, but it is one favorable indication. 1 John 3:14 leads us to believe that those with eternal life will want to go to church. That verse says, “‘We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers…’ How can anyone say he has this kind of heaven-generated love for the brothers (other Christians) when he doesn’t even love them enough to be with them? Can you imagine a person affirming his love for his family, but then saying that he doesn’t care if he ever sees them again?”
Not Going to Church is One Indication of Not Being in God’s Family. “While church attendance typically characterizes Christians, people who aren’t interested in going to church may have that attitude precisely because they are not Christians. I make such a bold statement based upon God’s Word in 1 John 2:19. In this verse John clarifies for his readers why some people had stopped being a part of their fellowship. ‘They went out from us,” he explains, “but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.’ If they really belonged to the Christian family, John reasons, they would show it by their presence with the family. Their absence reveals the spurious nature of their Christianity.”
I think Whitney’s conclusion is spot on:
Anyone who, without regret, is persistently willing to disobey the Lord’s command to meet with the people of God when they gather for public worship (Hebrews 10:25), and who is willing to forsake all the privileges and blessings God provides through the local church, may have some “religion,” but he or she does not have biblical Christianity.
In a day of such rampant individualism, I think Whitney’s book, from which these excerpts came, is one of the most needed books for Christians today. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Buy it for yourself and be blessed.