I often hear from Christians who have become disillusioned with the concept of going to church. Bad experiences have left a bitter taste in their mouths and in most cases they've given up entirely on the practice of attending a local church. Here is a letter from one:
I was reading your instructions on how to grow as a Christian, where you state that we need to go to church. Well that's where I have to differ, because it does not sit well with me when the church's concern is one's income. I have been to several churches and they always ask about income. I tell them I will give what I can and their response is, "You have to give at least ten percent of your income." I understand that the church needs funds to operate, but to tell someone that they need to give ten percent is not right ... I have decided to go online and do my Bible studies and use the Internet to obtain information about following Christ, and to learn about God. I have friends and relatives who are good Christians and they will stand with me to honor Christianity. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Peace be with you and may God bless you.
Most of my reply to Bill's letter is contained in this examination of what the Bible says about church attendance. (I also address his concerns about giving in a separate article called, "What Does the Bible Say About Giving.") I am pleased that Bill's response to the material was favorable. "I really appreciate you pointing out the various passages and I will keep looking," he said.
If you are reading this with serious doubts about the importance of church attendance, I hope you too will look deeper into the question of what the Bible says about going to church.
What does the Bible say about church attendance?
The Bible tells us to meet together as believers and to encourage one another.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (NIV)
The reason I encourage Christians to find a good church is because the Bible instructs us to be in relationship with other believers. If we are part of Christ's body, we will recognize our need to fit into the body of believers. The church is the place where we come together to encourage one another as members of Christ's body. Together we fulfill an important purpose on the Earth.
As members of the body of Christ, we belong to each other.
... so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (NIV)
It is actually for our own good that God want us in fellowship with other believers. We need each other to grow up in the faith, to learn to serve, to love one another, and to practice forgiveness. Though we are individuals, we still belong to one another.
When you give up on attending church, what's at stake?
Well, to put it in a nutshell: the unity of the body, your own spiritual growth, protection and blessing are all at risk when you're disconnected from the body of Christ.
Christ's body is made of many parts, yet it is still one unified entity.
1 Corinthians 12:12
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 12:14-23
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 12:27
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (NIV)
Unity in the body of Christ does not mean total conformity and uniformity. Although maintaining unity in the body is very important, it is also vital to value the unique qualities that make each of us an individual "part" of the body. Both aspects, unity and individuality, deserve emphasis and appreciation. This makes for a healthy church body, when we remember that Christ is our common denominator. He makes us one.