For believers, there is no substitute for attending church. Besides something that pleases God, it is necessary for a believer's spiritual well-being. For shut-ins or invalids who aren't able to go to church, the ministries on radio or TV might be the only kind of fellowship or spiritual nourishment that they get. God certainly understands the circumstances of these people, and recognizes the sincerity of their hearts. However, it is a different matter for those who could attend church but are too lazy, or put other things such as entertainment and amusements before God, or who harbor bitterness or indifference toward other believers.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.” or I had Bad experiences that have left a bitter taste in my mouth and in most cases they've given up entirely on the practice of attending a local church. Well, how do you respond to something like that? Do you really have to go to church to be a true believer?
Walking into a church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than walking into a garage makes you a car. No matter how you slice it, going to church just isn’t going to save you — it’s only true faith in Christ alone that saves. If indeed you are a true believer you are not going to lose your salvation by not going to church. However, it’s pretty hard to believe that a genuine believer would fail to go to church. The Christian life is to be lived within the context of the family of God (Eph. 3:14-15; Acts 2), and not in isolation. The fact of the matter is Hebrews 10 clearly tells us “…not to neglect the gathering of ourselves together as is the custom of some” (Heb. 10:25).
It’s through our attendance at church that we hear the preaching of the Word of God. Ephesians Chapter 4 clearly tells us that God has placed pastors and teachers in the church “to prepare His people of works of service, so that the body of Christ might be build up and strengthened.” You cannot avail yourself of this spiritual training if you are on the golf course on Sunday morning — trying to worship God in the Cathedral of the Pines…or seated in front of the tv – etc
It’s also important to note that you can’t participate in sacraments like the Lord’s Supper without attending church [ 1Cor 11:23 - 26 For I have received from the Lord, that which also I delivered to you, That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread: And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he shall come.] Receiving communion with the family of God is not only an incredible privilege, it’s also the responsibility of every true believer. And corporate worship is not only what our gracious sovereign God deserves, but also what He demands. [Joh 6:53 Then Jesus said to them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.]
It is important to attend church for the following reasons:
Going to church is a visible, tangible expression of our love and worship toward God. It is where we can gather with other believers to publicly bear witness of our faith and trust in God, something that is required of all Christians (Matt. 10:32-33) -- and it is where we can bring Him offerings of praise, thanks, and honor, which are pleasing to Him. The psalmist wrote, "I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You" (Psa. 22:22). People are often motivated toward church attendance for how it will bless themselves, however we should remember that the primary purpose of the corporate gathering is to bring "service" to the Lord as a blessing to Him (Psa. 134:2). Indeed, the Lord is deserving of our time and energy to honor Him with our service of devotion. "You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created" (Rev. 4:11).
Receiving the preaching and teaching of the Word of God increases our faith and builds us up spiritually. Every believer knows what it is to face spiritual conflicts to their faith, and must realize the importance of being fed spiritually so that they can overcome the challenges. Paul states that Christians face a wrestling match with the Devil and his evil spiritual forces, and warns that the church must put on spiritual armor for protection, as it will take everything at our disposal to stand (Eph. 6:10-18). How important that we take every opportunity available to receive ministry and strength from God's Word. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).
There is the promise of a special visitation of the Lord's presence whenever two or more gather specifically in the name of Jesus. By implication, this means whenever "Jesus" is the object of gathered prayer, worship, praise, preaching, etc. Even though Jesus resides within the heart of every believer, he honors a gathering in his name by coming in the "midst," with his power, awareness, and anointing. In such a gathering, Christ is able to do things in hearts that he may not at any other time. The scripture says that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psa. 22:3), and in such an atmosphere the Holy Spirit will often manifest spiritual gifts that minister to the body of Christ. "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20).
Gathering together also has compounded importance to the relationship of the Christian brethren. The Bible makes it clear that a right relationship with God requires a "vertical" and "horizontal" alignment -- that is, we must have a vertical fellowship with God and a horizontal fellowship with other believers. It is not possible to love God and refuse to love the brethren. If you have a problem loving other Christians, you have a problem in your relationship with God. Scripture warns us that unforgiveness toward others will void God's forgiveness of our own sins (Matt. 6:15). John wrote, "He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him" (1 John 2:9-10).
One of the most important reasons that we go to church is to practice love toward the brethren in the form of fellowship. The Bible clearly shows that if we have a right relationship with God, we have fellowship with others believers. "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). Keeping ourselves in love and harmony with other believers keeps us humble before God so that Christ's blood can continue to cleanse us from our sins.
Not to be forgotten, going to church is also a matter of obeying God's Word. The writer of the Hebrew epistle tells us not to forsake assembling together, implying that continued absence can lead to willful sin. "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins," (Heb. 10:24-26). Once again, we are reminded that a great part of the purpose of the gathering is for the consideration of our brethren, coming together to help motivate and encourage one another. This is a responsibility charged to every believer. To reject church attendance, is a rejection of one of the sacred duties of the believer. "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin" (James 4:17).
More strong evidence that proves that we're to be a part of a church fellowship, is that we're told to submit to the authority of spiritual leaders (within the boundaries of God's Word). "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Heb. 13:17). God designed this system of accountability for the progress and protection of His flock. Obviously, this really isn't possible unless we are a part of an organized fellowship which has identified elders, pastors, or leaders. It is easy to see that one cannot genuinely be under submission to a TV pastor who has never met you. Nor is it possible to be under submission by visiting a different church each week. The Bible tells us to know them that are over us in the Lord (1 Thes. 5:12). Submission necessitates a commitment and relationship to a local body of believers and to their spiritual leaders.
The Bible indicates that agreement in prayer with other believers has special favor with God. "Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven" (Matt. 18:19). There is multiplied strength in the combined faith of God's people, and it is clear that greater spiritual gains can be realized through corporate prayer and worship. This agrees with how God has historically blessed the union of His people in battle against their enemies. "Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you" (Lev. 26:8).
The fourth commandment of the law that God gave Moses was to set aside the seventh day of the week, Saturday, as a holy day to the Lord. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Ex. 20:8). This was, and will always remain, the official Sabbath. However, after Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, Sunday, the early Christians began meeting together on this day as well as with the Jewish community in the synagogues on the Sabbath. History indicates that due to the enmity of the orthodox Jews toward the Christian Jews in their midst, the Jewish Christians were eventually ostracized. And although they were no longer bound to a rigid code of laws (Gal. 3:10-11, Col. 2:16), it is believed that they came to view Sunday as a combined observance of the Sabbath and the resurrection day of Jesus (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2). This day of Christian worship came to be called the Lord's Day (Rev. 1:10), a day to fellowship in celebration of the resurrection, to worship, pray and study the Word together.
Today, the Christian Jew or gentile, is free from the bondage of the old law. The indwelling of God's spirit has brought a new way for Christians to fulfill the desires of God through His love (Gal. 5:18, Rom. 13:8-10). However, the new covenant does not invalidate the relevance of the ten commandments as they pertained to God's wishes for His people. As much as it remains God's desire for man not to kill, steal or commit adultery, God is still very much pleased for believers to honor Him on a day reserved for Him, out of their love for Him and His people.
For these reasons and many other reasons, Christians should take church attendance seriously. The Christian life is to be lived within the context of the fellowship of the saints. The Bible knows nothing of a “lone ranger Christian.” Many logs burning together burn very brightly, but when a log falls off to the side, the embers quickly die out. When you face the difficulties of life as we all surely will, you’ll be thankful for the love, support, and prayers of your extended church family.