“You don’t understand, my church is so boring. It’s become irrelevant. I don’t know why I have to get up so early to attend something that has no impact on me. I can get a better blessing by watching my own stuff and chilling with my friends.” For some, in an era of social media and crowd activism, sitting passively through a one-to-two-hour service can be painful. Perhaps the sermon sounds like a dull lecture, the order of worship a meaningless ritual, and the music a repetitive, mind-numbing experience.
American evangelist D. L. Moody stated that “church attendance is vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.” What is it about church attendance that is efficacious? Surely not the attributes mentioned above. What does the Bible say about it? Many passages talk about the power of church, but in short there are two broad principles about attending church in person.
1. Jesus Christ is the Lord and head of the church
The person to which we need to be calibrated is Jesus Christ! He is the Lord of all creation, of heaven, of earth, and of the church! Too often we get sidetracked into thinking we go to church either for the community, for the pastor, for our parents, for meeting our future spouse, or for our peers. But the foremost Person to which our spiritual affections are directed is the Son of God. He is the One to whom Scripture directs and ascribes all worship.
The last verse of the book of Psalms (150:6) says, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.” Romans 12:1, 2 states, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” And 1 Corinthians 10:31 emphasizes, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Although praising, serving, and glorifying can be done alone, the point is that the emphasis is on God, not the needs or preferences of the worshiper. Too often in a conventional worship society, the plea to attend church takes on the form of an informercial. Churches try to sell their unique points, the meeting of needs, and the customization of preferences and settings for church. But we find none of these elements in Scripture.
When attending church, is it that we are judging the sermon and the preacher? Are we waiting for the congregation to do something active while we sit passively? Are we anticipating to “rate” the church, its services, and the people? Or are we waiting with bated breath for the moving of the Holy Spirit, for the conscience to be spoken to by the Word of God, for an encounter with God through humble human agencies, for our souls to surrender before the Creator of creation?
The church is not merely an organization or a human community. It is the living body referred to when Christ said, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). In other words, Christ is in charge of this grouping of people, so it should be different from any other social institution. Ephesians 3:10, 11 goes so far as to say that the church is the theater in which the fundamental issues of the universe and sovereignty of God are played out. How much loftier is the biblical understanding of church than just a place to worship God!
2. The church is the body of Jesus Christ
Not only do we need a vertical spiritual calibration with the divine, but there is also a horizontal spiritual calibration with fellow believers. Hebrews 10:24, 25 says, “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.” Though the temptation is to have an esoteric and monastic experience with God, the weekly connection with others prevents extremism and isolation while promoting a stronger and more viable faith. Human beings need encouragement, empowerment, accountability, and inspiration from other human contacts. “As is the manner of some” denotes that this is an age-old tendency to avoid assembling, but Scripture encourages us to assemble more, “as you see the Day approaching,” emphasizing its benefits as the second coming of Jesus approaches.