This young lady, who I will call Lydia, talked about her salvation experience at age 18 and subsequent marriage to a man she describes as the model of the husband described in the New Testament. He, according to her is the closest man that she has ever known to the example of love that was personified in Jesus. Her husband covers her every day with a fresh devotion that he writes each day after spending time with God in prayer, meditation, and in reading the Word. She shared the devotion that he wrote sent to her that day in a Facebook message. It was powerful, full of love, and the Word, and was obviously written under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Lydia is bold in her witness, unafraid to talk about Jesus to anybody. She is not afraid to show the love of Christ anywhere at any time, to anyone.
We talked about the failure of the church to reach those tossed aside because they don't fit the church model that man has created. She says, and I agree, that to love as God loves we have to admit that we are all flawed. We talked about the church locking up the anointing and refusing to release it unless you fit the church model.
I was convicted during our conversation because she said that if she had not started talking about the Lord that I probably would have never mentioned Jesus which meant that had she not been a believer, would have been a missed opportunity to share the Gospel. OUCH!! I had to confess that she was right. We talked about all the excuses we have for not witnessing strangers.
Then she hit me with this. She told me that that she and her husband, who she met in church, who were praise and worship leaders, no longer go to church. Her children, the oldest of which is a teenager, have been to a church, maybe once. I have no doubt about this young lady's love of Jesus, the effectiveness of her witness, and her value to the Kingdom of God. She and her family are “sold out”, but she is missing one thing that I believe we, as Christians are instructed to do.
Hebrews 10:23-25 CEV We must hold tightly to the hope we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us. We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. Some people have given up the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord's coming is getting closer.
Meeting together prepares each one of us to be effective witnesses able to accomplish the Great Commission.
Matthew 28:18-20 CEV Jesus came to them and said: I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.
So here’s the question I want to pose today is does the Bible say that we must go to church to live the life of faith? I believe that the answer is Yes and No. Let me explain
The fact is that Jesus was frequently at the Temple.
Luke 2:46 Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.
Matthew 21:12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.
Matthew 21:23 When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”
Mark 11:11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.
Mark 11:15 Then they *came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves
Luke 19:45 Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling,
John 2:14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.
John 8:2 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.
Mark 11:27 They *came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders *came to Him,
John 10:23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.
Matthew 21:14 And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.
Mark 12:35 And Jesus began to say, as He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?
John 7:28 Then Jesus cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, “You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.
John 8:20 These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come
John 18:20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret.
Luke 22:53 While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power of darkness are yours.”
John 5:14 Afterward Jesus *found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.”
John 7:14 But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach
This is significant given the fact that Jesus is the only person on earth who could justifiably live his spiritual life alone. Jesus did not need a community of faith to mediate his relationship with the Father, and yet, Jesus gathered a community around him. He lived his faith in the company of others.
While scripture does not command Christians to attend church, it does speak powerfully about the blessing of the church community. Those who joined the Christian movement were immediately immersed in a dynamic community of fellow believers.
Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Meeting together was the natural way that Christian people grew in their faith.
Scripture is rarely addressed to an individual. Rather, the scriptures address a people, a community of faith witnessing to the power and presence of the living God.
1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Does it shock you think that church attendance might not be necessary to live an active and robust life of faith? When we make church attendance necessary for the Christian life, or for our salvation, we twist the community of faith into a superficial body of earning and merit.
We mistakenly assume that there is something that we must do to earn our place in God’s kingdom. Scripture, however, is clear in affirming that there is nothing that we do to earn God’s love or favor. Nowhere does scripture require attendance at church as a condition of salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
Salvation by grace through faith is consistent with Jesus’ own life and ministry. Countless rules and regulations dictated how Jewish men and women lived faithfully before God. This involved everything from what to eat, when to work, who to associate with, and where to be on certain days. Jesus frequently violated these man made rules and allowed his followers to do so.
Mark 2:23-28 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Spiritual activities, no matter how well-meaning, always run the risk of blocking our connection with Jesus when these activities become ends in themselves. Going to church for church’s sake does little for our spiritual growth. It may even work negatively against it.
Here’s the Bottom Line
Instead of asking “Do I have to go to church?” it is better to ask whether we can live a life of faith in isolation. Can we maintain spiritual growth? Can we maintain an active prayer life? What's our true heart behind not” attending church?
When I say “live a life of faith” I’m not talking about individual spiritual moments, but a lifestyle lived before God. Is it better for you to live out your faith in the company of others, or by yourself?
God wants us to be safe, healthy, and whole. Any church set upon hate and judgment does not represent the body of which Christ is the head.
Ephesians 1:22-23 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
There are toxic church communities in the world and it is God’s will for us to remove ourselves from them.
Galatians 1:6-9 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
Romans 16:17-19 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
Titus 3:10-11 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
Jesus will never call us to remain in a community that does not lead us into His loving and gracious presence.
The church is not beneficial because it is the church, it is beneficial because we become immersed in a community of support, encouragement, challenge, and ministry. Jesus may not demand that you attend a church, but that does not mean he does not ask you to participate in one.