Why Christians Should Go To Church

Title: Why Christians Should Go To Church

Text: Hebrews 10:25, Luke 4:16, Acts 2:42

Time: March 22nd, 2012

We’re into the Easter season 2012 with Easter Sunday only a few weeks away. Every year around this time C & E Christians (Christmas and Easter Christians) come out of obscurity and attend church. At least they consider these two holidays important enough to attend church, although by their actions we must conclude that they think the rest of the year is not important enough to attend. But this phenomenon raises the question, “Should Christians attend church at all?” Is it important for Christians to attend church? There are millions upon millions of so-called Christians who never attend church, some of these don’t even bother to attend at Christmas or Easter, although most Christians do attend church at Christmas or Easter. But what does it say when a supposed Christian doesn’t think it important enough to attend to the worship of God in church except maybe once or twice per year? What are they saying by not attending? Does it really matter whether they or anyone attends church? Now a typical American attitude towards the whole business of attending church might be something like this, “Well, if a person feels it’s important that they attend church, they should.” Yes, that’s how we Americans leave things – up to the individual. But is the Christian faith that optional? Could a person say the same thing about other Christian activities? What about prayer? “Well, if a Christian feels it’s important that they pray, they should pray.” What about reading the Bible? “Well, if a Christian feels they need to read the Bible, they should.” But again, is this the proper perspective we should have on such things? We might extend the basic question to other things, such as following Jesus in obedience. Should a Christian be expected to even follow the teachings of Jesus? “Well, if a Christian feels that it’s important to follow Jesus, they should.” But is that a valid response? It doesn’t seem like it’s valid for one simple reason – Christianity isn’t something we can make up as if it’s all about us, because Christianity is something from God that we join. It’s agenda is set by God, not anyone else, or even ourselves. We can’t take such a loose and casual attitude towards prayer or Bible reading or obedience; and we can’t take such a casual attitude towards church attendance either. I don’t know the motivation behind the millions of persons who only attend church once or twice a year at Christmas and Easter time. I don’t know the thinking of Christians who don’t even attend church at all. But what I’d like to show today is it’s not a proper attitude to hold as a Christian. It makes perfect sense for non-Christians to not attend a Christian church, just as it makes sense for non-Jews not to attend Synagogue or non-Muslims not to attend Mosque; but it makes no sense for Christians not to attend church. Let me outline three reasons why Christians should attend church.

First, God the Father instructs us to attend church regularly. Hebrews 10:25, “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.” Evidently some Christians in the 1st Century got the idea that church attendance was an optional practice and began to abstain from participating in it. The writer of Hebrews – and we aren’t exactly sure who the author is, although some think the Apostle Paul, but that can’t be established for certain – anyway, the divine and inspired author instructs Christians to not even think about skipping church. “Let us not give up meeting together.” There were some Christians who thought that since they had a personal, spiritual relationship with God through Jesus Christ that actually meeting and attending Christian church services were entirely optional. Now why would they even think such a thing? Because it is possible to establish and maintain a relationship with God through Jesus Christ apart from the larger church community. Yes, this is so, it’s a reality. But having said that, we get no indication from the Lord Jesus or the Apostles or any other early church leaders that living apart from the Christian community is acceptable. Quite the contrary, we are instructed to continue meeting together as Christians for the purpose of encouragement – as the verse above teaches. God is revealing an important truth to Christians through the divine author of Hebrews; he’s teaching us that even though it’s possible to relate with him only individually, it’s not healthy to do so, and therefore, church is important and essential in our Christian life. The verse is very clear, very direct. It’s a command from God the Father to his children – participate in regular church meetings. “Hear the Word of God preached, participate in worship, say prayers together, encourage and hold each other accountable in the faith. Don’t try to live the Christian life apart from other Christians in the faith community.”  In modern times, we have Christians who watch Christian TV and listen to Christian radio; they consider this as good as church participation. What would God say to these Christians? He’d say exactly what he’s saying through the Book of Hebrews in the passage above, “Don’t give up meeting together.” You can’t meet with other Christians on TV or radio. No, these means of modern communications, while helpful, cannot take the place of regular church attendance. God the Father in heaven is instructing us to regularly attend church worship services. And he’s not just talking about meeting socially with Christians during the week at a Bible study or prayer meeting or support group or volunteer activity. He’s talking about a meeting roughly based on the old Jewish synagogue format where God’s Word is read and commented on, where worship happened, prayers occurred and fellowship for encouragement and accountability was experienced. He’s talking about church. Now we either obey God or not in this. It’s an obedience issue; we should take it seriously.

Second, Jesus the Son leads us to attend church regularly. Luke 4:16, “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” Now the Jewish Sabbath day is Saturday, not Sunday. Some Christians know that, some don’t. But the original Sabbath day is Saturday, the last day of the week. We think that’s strange because we are used to the Sunday Sabbath day as the last day of the week, with Monday being the first day of the workweek, although on calendars Sunday is still shown as the first day of the week. Why the change? Because after Christianity became established, more Christians were meeting on Sunday — because that’s the day Christ rose from the dead — than on Saturday. Also, more Christians were Gentile by that time than Jewish, so with no tradition of Saturday Sabbath and only the practice of Sunday Sabbath, it was officially established as the Christian day of worship. But what’s interesting to note in the above passage is that Jesus had a regular custom or habit – he attended the local synagogue every Sabbath. It says “on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” So Jesus didn’t leave attending worship up to chance, or treat it with the casualness that many Christians treat it today. Jesus got himself to church every Sabbath – or, it’s equivalent, the Jewish synagogue. And so if our Lord and Savior established this habit or custom of attending worship services every week, regularly, so then should we also. Aren’t we supposed to be followers of Jesus? Ok, so if we follow Jesus let us follow him in this respect. Why would we willingly omit following Jesus in his practice of worship? By what authority can we “pass” on regular worship if the Lord himself included it into his weekly schedule? It makes no sense. The fact is, we know that Jesus attended weekly worship; it was his habit or custom, as it was for almost all Jews at that time. Church attendance by Christians is similar. It was the practice of the Apostles and the early church to meet at least weekly for group worship, for hearing instruction in God’s Word, for fellowship, for prayer, and other things. It is not optional for Christians today to ignore Christ’s example in respect to this. There is no excuse for not regularly attending church. Especially today, when there are so many options available. If you don’t like singing modern, contemporary worship songs, you can attend a traditional worship service where old hymns are sung. If you don’t like the traditional songs, you can attend a church that sings contemporary praise choruses. Instead of only two or three church options, today in most areas there are hundreds of churches to choose from. No, there’s no excuse for neglecting regular worship attendance. It’s simply disobedience.

Three, the Holy Spirit inspires us to attend regular church services. Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Who are “they” in this passage? It’s none other than the believers and converts from the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the people and commenced what is now know as the Christian church. Immediately after the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost, the believers began to gather together along with the new converts for church. And they continued this practice regularly. There is no indication that new converts signed a decision card, were prayed for, and then just released to do whatever they wanted to do in order to grow as Christians. No. They were immediately incorporated into the existing body of believers – or in other words, brought into the life of the church. They were expected to continue on in the faith through regular participation in the activities of the church. The whole idea of living the Christian life apart from a faith community, apart from regular public gatherings where God’s Word is taught, prayers said, and worship is conducted is totally foreign to the early church. That’s why it’s so damaging when Christians today think they can get along without going to church on a regular basis. Now simply attending church isn’t anything magic, because we all know that simply being physically present someplace isn’t the same a fully participating. A student can be physically present in a classroom, yet not pay any attention and not learn anything, even though present. It’s the same in church. The mere fact of attending church every week doesn’t mean one is fully participating in worship, but at least minimally it means that one is present. A Christian can’t encourage other Christians who are hurting or need help if they aren’t present. Also, a Christian can’t receive encouragement when he or she isn’t present in church either. But Christians already know they should be regularly attending to worship services at a local church; the Holy Spirit teaches them this. If we are honest, if we put aside our sinful, human rationalizations, we must all agree that something inside each of us believers tells us to get to church on Sunday. And that same something convicts us internally when we neglect regular church attendance; we feel guilty, as we should. This is the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, who both inspires us to go to church regularly and convicts when we fail to do so. In this way, the Spirit leads us to participate in church, even though we are capable of resisting the Spirit’s leading.

Now there are many reasons why Christians don’t regularly attend any church on Sunday. We don’t have time to go through all the various reasons or excuses. Some claim that the church is full of hypocrites. Well, yes, but so what? Aren’t we all hypocrites to some degree? I mean, we all don’t live up to the standards of God in all areas, and we know it. We don’t attend church to escape hypocrisy; we attend because that’s what Christians are supposed to do for worship. If hypocrisy is your excuse, then find the church with the least amount of hypocrites, in your estimation, and attend there. But don’t let this be an excuse for not obeying God. Still others say they don’t go to church because they don’t like the preaching or don’t like the worship music. Well, then they need to search and find a church where the preaching and the worship music is tolerable or acceptable. But here’s something to consider – church is not about finding the best preaching or teaching; it’s not about finding the best worship music. It’s more important to be some place, any place, then to hold out for the best. Church isn’t supposed to be a performance where the pastor or musical team competes for customers on Sunday mornings. Some churches seem to approach Sunday morning that way. “We’ve got the best music in town!” This kind of competition misses the point. Church is for the purpose of focusing on God, not the pastor or the worship choir. It’s not about how fancy the worship facility is or how excellent the quality of the nursery is, or other external things. The main questions we should ask when selecting a church are, “Is God’s Word accurately and faithfully being presented? Is God being worshiped with integrity and honesty? Are prayers being offered to God for meaningful needs? Are the people genuinely seeking God?” No church will ever be perfect, because not even the 1st Century church was perfect. But it doesn’t have to be perfect to accomplish what God wants done in the lives of Christians. We live in an increasingly secular world today. Our culture is not sympathetic to Christian truth; in fact, often times it’s outright hostile to Christianity. We need a regular gathering to attend that promotes faith in Christ Jesus and equips us to stay strong in the faith. We can’t make it alone in the world without such a regular weekly meeting. There is no excuse for not attending weekly church. I haven’t dealt with all the reasons why people skip church, but there’s really no need to go into all of them. What is important to remember is that God the Father commands us to go, Jesus the Son leads us to go, and the Holy Spirit inspires and convicts us to go. Do we need any more reasons than these to go?

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