Does the Bible Say We Really Have to Go to Church?
- Shelby Turner
- 2019 24 Sep
It’s 7:30 AM on a Sunday morning. The week was busy, exhausting you could even say. There were school projects, work deadlines and mountains of laundry at every turn with hardly a moment to catch your breath. Saturday was devoted to early morning soccer games and a family birthday party. The one thing you do not want to do on the last morning of the weekend is get ready and drive to church. It would be so much easier to keep your pajamas on, enjoy a slow morning and listen to a podcast later to make sure you get your spiritual fill up before starting a new week.
I’m no stranger to longing for restful days at home in place of regular church attendance. And I’m sure you aren’t either. Our lives are harried. Our bodies are weary. Our schedules are overloaded. What’s the harm in watching the service online rather than attending in person? Or skipping on the weeks our kids have sports games? Or taking a month off to recharge when life is busy?
The harm is this: God designed church to be an irreplaceable catalyst of growth for every Christian. When you skip church, you miss out on some of the spiritual gains God has planned for you.
Bible study, prayer and small groups are great but they won’t bolster you to full maturity without adding church into the mix. Think of an athlete who focuses solely on building their arms while letting their legs waste away. They look awkward and imbalanced. In the same way, Christians who don’t regularly attend and engage with a church will be lacking in spiritual strength no matter how much they pray and read their Bible on their own.
Thankfully, God gives us several clear descriptions of what it looks like to be a healthy, committed member of a church. Let’s look at three times the Bible tells us how often we should attend church:
1. We should attend church often enough to show we care deeply about it
“And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing,but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
What does it mean to neglect gathering together? It means to fail to care properly for church. If someone neglects meeting together with their church, it means they leave church attendance behind in the pursuit of other concerns and cares. Whether those cares are hobbies, scheduling conflicts or a date with their pillow, Scripture is clear: Some are in the habit of doing this, but you shouldn’t be one of them!
We can summarize it in this way: Church attendance should be the norm and missing church should be the exception, and not the other way around. This means that we should strive to meet weekly with our church body, in person. And while we’re there we should engage in relationship and service to others. If you could somehow look at a record of your church attendance for the past year, it should show that you cherish the church and that you attend accordingly.
2. We should attend church persistently and with perseverance
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42)
The early church as described in Acts was full of radical growth, outrageous miracles and genuine, joy-filled relationships. Doesn’t this sound like the church we all want to attend? In this time when the church was thriving, Acts 2:42 uses an interesting word to describe the believers in the church. They were devoted. This word in the Greek means to persist, to persevere in and continue steadfast in.
Maybe you are in a season where church is hard. It’s not the time or the busyness that’s kept you from attending, it’s the emotions that rise up in you when you enter the building and rub shoulders with the people.
It may encourage you to know that Scripture says we should persist and persevere in our commitment to the church. And there’s hardly any persistence needed in times of ease, so these verses must be talking about pressing in even when times are hard.
These verses also give us the four areas of church we should be devoted to. If you’ve stepped away from church or have never been fully committed, then these could be seen as four steps to devote or re-devote yourself to the house of God.
The church in Acts devoted themselves to:
- Teachings of the Apostles - We should be committed to learning from the teaching of the Bible in our church.
- Fellowship - We should be committed to partnership and participation with our church.
- Breaking of Bread - We should strive for time spent face to face around a table and not just shoulder to shoulder in the rows of the sanctuary.
- Prayer - We should pray for and with members of our church.
3. We should attend church like our role in it is vital to its growth and health
“And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of the ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness … From him the whole body, fitted and knitted together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building itself in love by the proper working of each individual part” (Ephesians 4:11-13, 16).
The Bible frequently refers to the church as the body of Christ and to its members as individual parts of the body. Like the various systems, organs, and muscles of a body cannot function without each other, God created us to be interdependent and interconnected. No person can choose to live independently from the rest of the body of Christ without causing harm to themselves and to the rest of the church.
You need the people of the church and the people of the church need you. The church needs you to show up on Sunday, tired as you may feel and disheveled as you may appear. The woman in the seat next to you needs you to shake her hand and say, “I’m glad you’re here.” The new family visiting needs you to serve in the kids’ rooms so they can hear the gospel in the service. A family in your small group needs you pray for them as they work to heal their marriage.
Just as the church’s role in your life is irreplaceable, so is your role in the church. How would it change your perspective when your alarm goes off on Sunday morning if you knew that when you enter the church doors, you would be doing things no one else could do to build up those around you? And not only that, but you will be doing it alongside people who will be building you up as well!
The Bible doesn’t give us a specific number of times per month we should attend church, but it does speak to the heart we should have for the house of God. Our heart should hold the church dear, persevere in commitment and value the role we play in the body of Christ. If we align our hearts with God’s word in these three areas, regular church attendance is the only possible outcome.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Robin Spielmann
Shelby Turner is a speaker and writer who lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband and three sons. When she isn’t sharing Jesus from the stage or writing words on a page, you can find her building legos with her kids or serving in the children’s ministry at her church. You can connect with her on her blog at www.shelbyraeturner.comor she also loves to hang out on instagram at @shelbyraeturner.