Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m in the church building anytime the doors are unlocked”? For many people, church attendance is fundamental to their lives each week. But in contrast, many have asked the question “Why should I go to church?” and made the choice in recent years to stop attending. Maybe it was due to a negative experience, or maybe the busyness of life has left little time for church. While going to church provides good teaching and needed worship, there are three additional reasons followers of Jesus should attend church and become a part of the community, even when they’ve had a negative experience.
1. The Church provides power against the enemy.
“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.” Matthew 16:18 (ESV)
A while back, I needed to dig a new post-hole for my fence. I plunged a manual digger into the ground and quickly discovered that only six inches beneath the soil was a thick layer of sticky black clay. I didn’t have the arm strength to muscle through the paste. Once I rented a gas-driven digger, I had all the power I needed. The Church provides the same level of spiritual power and authority to Christians. On our own, we don’t have the spiritual stamina to overcome the enemy. So, along with the Holy Spirit, the Lord gave us the church as a place over which the enemy will never gain victory. By stepping away from church and avoiding community, a person steps away from this power.
2. The church provides spiritual purpose.
“So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Romans 12:5 (ESV)
After my alarm wails each morning, I stumble out of bed and wander to the kitchen. Upon arriving there, I’ve never looked down to notice my arms are still in bed, unwilling to join the rest of me. It’s because they are connected to me. They are a part of me and go where my body goes. Though my arms function individually, they find purpose and protection in the rest of the body, as does a Christian in the Church. Each church is made up of many unique individuals, all of whom are connected through Christ. Just like a hand has no purpose or ability unless it’s connected to the body, by joining a church body, a person finds spiritual purpose and connection. Stepping away from church introduces isolation and vulnerability.
3. God dwells in the Church.
“In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:22 (ESV)
Christians have been taught that Jesus lives in our hearts; however, the full expression of God’s dwelling can only happen among other believers, within the Church. In the Old Testament, God’s presence lived in the temple. Only certain priests could experience His presence, and only at a defined time of the year. In the New Testament, God’s presence lives in those who follow Jesus, and is always available. But His presence is most fully experienced and understood, not in our personal quiet time, but when two or more believers come together. God’s presence brings rest, freedom and justice; each of these are in high demand in our fast-paced, overworked modern age. By being a part of a church, we access God’s presence and invoke His plan to bring His kingdom to the earth. Granted, the Church hasn’t always done this well, but it remains His plan. The instant a person steps away from church or from people, they begin to distance themselves from the fullness of God’s presence.
I hope you can see attending church means more than simply participating in a social gathering. The church is God’s mechanism for distributing His power, purpose and presence. The more we can attend church and engage with the people there, the more we position ourselves for God’s fullness.