I know many professed Christians who believe that church attendance is optional and really not required. After all, it’s about what’s in your heart that matters. They point out that church is a man-made deal and Jesus isn’t a religion or set of dogmas that you have to follow. Just love people. Be kind. Do good things.
Is that true?
No. Not really.
The worship of God and attending church regularly go hand in hand.
First of all, God created the New Testament church. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
For centuries, God’s people—followers of God, like the Israelites—have gathered together for worship.
The Bible refers to the church as Christ’s bride. It’s not anymore okay for us as Christians to neglect church than it would be for a wife to avoid her husband or for a husband to neglect his wife. Going to church is a regular practice of a faithful believer.
Scripture is filled with examples of people attending church and the things involved with church attendance.
When we make it a point to go to church, we are demonstrating faithfulness. As believers, joining together in worship has to have a priority in our lives. Scripture repeatedly points out the importance of being united and staying steadfast in our gathering together. By attending church, we encourage other believers, demonstrating love both of God and for others in the process. Through the church, people are able to come to know God, while believers are edified and grow in stature, maturing in the Lord.
The Great Commandment
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? 37 And he said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
In Hebrews, the writer says “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)
From early on, God called on us to worship Him. In the Ten Commandments, God tells us to set aside a day for the Lord. In Psalm 95, the psalmist directs us to sing to the LORD and make a joyful noise and to come into his presence with thanksgiving and praise. In Acts, we see the early followers gather together for teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers.
You must revere the Lord your God, serve him, and take oaths using only his name. Deuteronomy 6:13 (NET Bible)
Over and over again, the Bible depicts the activities of believers coming together to celebrate and give thanks for what the Lord has done. I don’t believe that this makes church attendance optional—but rather, that God expects it of us as an exercise of faithfulness and a sign of obedience. When we make God first, all other things will fall in place.