The question carried a hint of sarcasm, or maybe defiance. Either way, the person aiming the inquisition clearly wasn’t a believer. I told him I was a Christian and that’s what Christians should do. It’s an act of obedience. He shrugged. I could have shared a better answer. I go to church for a multitude of reasons. I shouldn’t have assumed he was a non-believer. A lot of believers don’t go to church.
So, why do I go to church? In no particular order, here are five reasons. Maybe there are more than five. Maybe there is an order to the importance of these five. But they’re all important.
One: It is an act of obedience. Those of us who’ve been in church for a while know the verse well: …not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…Hebrews 10:25 (KJV). We’re supposed to assemble. More about that verse later. The early church set the example, and in obedience to God’s calling, we must follow.
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” Acts 2:46 (NIV)
The early believers spent a lot of time together. The least we can do is spend a couple of hours together.
Two: Through obedience comes fellowship. It’s a fellowship unlike any other. The bond is unearthly, and it should be experienced that way. Our eternity begins when we are called to follow Christ. We’re going to spend eternity with other followers so we might as well enjoy life with them now. It’s not always easy. Sin gets in the way of perfect fellowship. That doesn’t mean we can skip it. The Christian life is meant to be shared.
“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” I John 1:3,4 (NIV)
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” I John 1:7 (NIV)
Three: Through fellowship comes edification. Christianity is simple. And it’s complicated. The more you learn the more you realize how much you have to learn. Church should be a place of learning, of higher education. It’s about studying the Bible. Of course, it’s not about winning at Bible trivia (although that’s not a bad feat), but about the maturing of the believer in every way. “ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV)
Christian education is not about getting a degree in theology (another excellent feat if that’s what God calls you to do). Every church member needs to be grounded in God’s word in preparation for whatever God has planned for them. We each have a gift, a calling, a place to serve the body of Christ within the body of Christ and in the world around us. So, we need to know what we believe and why we believe it. Pastors and teachers aren’t perfect, and it’s okay to ask questions. A good instructor will always encourage you to check their teaching against the scriptures for yourself.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)
Four: Through edification comes service. Life in the post-modern, post-Christian world is hard. It’s exhausting for most people, and Christians are no different. Yet, we are different. We can change our priorities where they concern our time, our attention, even our money. We can choose to focus on the work of the Lord. It might not seem possible. It won’t be easy, especially in the commitment stage. But it is the calling of a Christian to live daily for God, and church is where it begins. “…therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” Galatians 6:10 (NIV)
Don’t skip over the mention of “all people.” They are all around us. Church should provide an opportunity for service to people outside the church.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” Matthew 5:16 (NIV)
Five: Through service comes worship. Worship is a big part of gathering together with other believers. Or at least it should be. Whether through music, reading scripture, prayer, or giving, worship is offered to God through our participation in church. But it’s not just about the corporate acts of worship in the church service. It’s also about our service to the church, and beyond. Worship is a moment-by-moment, intentional offering of everything that we are. It begins in church and moves outward. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” Romans 12:1 (NIV)
Does this mean I can worship God without being in church? Yes. Does it mean a Christian life without church is doable? Sure. Productive? Maybe…somewhat. Fulfilling? As an introvert, I’d like to think it could be. But I know better.
Can I skip church for twenty years and consider myself obedient? No. Can I have fellowship without church? Thanks to technology, yes, but…no. Can I educate myself on the Bible? Yes, and I do. Can I share that glorious, life-changing knowledge with others and talk about the wonders of God in a safe and affirming environment? I do that in church. Can I serve as God intended? We’ve established that service goes beyond church. But if you’re going to run the race, you need to start at the starting line. If you’re going to serve the body of Christ, and serve through the body of Christ, you need to be present with the body of Christ.
Do you sense a circular pattern here? Circle back to obedience and that verse about not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. Here’s the passage from Hebrews:
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 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 10:23-25 (NIV)
God is faithful. His diligence toward us is unwavering. But we might waver. We have to hold on tight. We can’t give up on each other, but rather we need to encourage each other, and all the more as we see…what? What is the Day that’s approaching? The day of gathering together? Sunday? The day of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem? It could be that the day might have referred to these for some people at some point in history. But it’s not just the day, it’s the Day—the Day that has been coming for a long time. So now, how much closer must it be? Aren’t the signs of the season becoming more obvious? Can't you see the Day approaching? Then, encourage each other, and meet together.
Behind this short list of reasons to go to church, there is a faithful God. There is a gospel call. Because of God’s faithfulness, and in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I go to church. I need constant reminding that I was trapped in sin and bound for hell, a lost soul incapable of finding the only One who could rescue me. But He saved my life by His death and resurrection. I find my freedom in the knowledge of the gospel. I don’t just hope it’s true. I don’t have my fingers crossed behind the cross. The good news was offered by God and ingested by my soul. It’s the truth, and I know it.
Obedience follows knowing the gospel. Fellowship increases because of the gospel. Edification flourishes in the light of the gospel. Service bears witness to the message of the gospel. Worship offers up love, devotion, and gratitude to God by those who believe in the promise of the gospel. And those who believe are members of the body of Christ, the church. What a wonderous existence. Why would you want to miss out on that?