According to most surveys, church attendance continues to decline nationwide. Many suggest church attendance is not even important for our spiritual growth. Is this true? What does the Bible say about church attendance?
First, we must define “church” according to the Bible’s definition.
The church was (and is) defined in two ways: the universal church and the local church. The universal church includes all believers—every person who has placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ.
The local church is defined in the New Testament as local gatherings of people who have placed their faith in Christ. The church is not a building, but a family. Christians don’t just attend church; they are the church—scattered and gathered.
Second, Scripture highlights the importance of regularly gathering with other Christians.
Hebrews 10:24-25 note, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Believers are encouraged to meet more frequently as we near Christ’s return, not less.
Third, some aspects of our faith can only occur in community.
Though online church services and personal study can help us grow spiritually, they cannot cover every aspect of our faith. For example, baptism is a public experience. Believers gather together to witness a person publicly expressing his or her faith in Jesus.
Another example is communion or the Lord’s Supper. Sharing the bread and the cup together to commemorate the death of Jesus is a vital part of the Christian faith. However, believers must gather together to practice communion according to its original context.
Other areas are important to practice together as well. Singing together, praying together, learning together, and serving together are all enhanced in community. The “one another” passages of Scripture require interaction with other believers.
On the other hand, church attendance is not a substitute for true spiritual community.
Many people have attended church services, yet do not really know Christ nor have meaningful relationships with other believers. These faults have certainly contributed to the growing attitude that church attendance is not important. If a person can attend a church service and not hear the gospel, not interact with other believers, and does not grow spiritually, the understandable yet inaccurate conclusion is that attendance does not matter.
Instead of giving up, believers have other options to consider. First, believers can seek to become more involved in their local church to improve its impact. Second, in some cases moving to another church may be necessary.
No church is perfect. Why not? The church is people. We are imperfect and fallen, making mistakes that can cause conflict or division. However, we are also family. As family, we are called to work together and love one another despite our flaws.
One final reason church attendance is important is because it prepares us for heaven.
In heaven, we will worship God with a variety of people from every language and nation. Our church experiences now reflect our yearning for this time when we will perfectly worship God with all His people.
Church attendance is important today. Yet we must personally make time not only to attend, but to get involved with our spiritual family to enhance our spiritual growth—and the growth of others.
Dillon Burroughs serves as senior writer at The John Ankerberg Show and has written nearly 40 books on issues of faith and culture. He is also an associate editor for The Apologetics Bible for Students and has contributed to many works on apologetics and Christian worldview. Dillon is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and holds a PhD in Leadership from Piedmont International University. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with his wife, Deborah, and their three children.
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