This post will share my thoughts on the answer to this question, but I am interested in hearing other people’s thoughts on this question as well. So feel free to share with me.
I have spoken with many folks that identify as Christ followers that are not members of a church nor attend a church. Many stop going for numerous reasons while still keeping the faith. Some examples of reasons I have heard include:
- Feelings of being slighted in some way by church leadership or the congregation
- Not finding a church that meets specific qualifications
- Personal preferences not being met
- Hypocrisy among church members
- Varying views on matters of doctrine and scripture
Despite the reasons, the main logic often seems to be that we don’t need the Church to be saved or to believe in Christ.
I can’t necessarily refute this. I’m sure people are saved without regular attendance or membership to a specific church. There are many Christians who do not have the opportunity to openly worship or publicly gather due to threats of torture and death.
Indeed, it is God who saves and not the congregation. We are not saved by going to church but by accepting Christ as our savior. Despite this, I think there are reasons why attending church is important.
It is where Christians have an opportunity to express devotion with other believers. Not only does it have many spiritual and emotional benefits, it also encourages spiritual growth and serves as an outlet for spiritual gifts.
On top of this, it is clear that scripture depicts Jesus and His apostles regularly gathering and recognizing the Sabbath (Luke 4:16, Luke 6:6, Mark 1:21, Acts 11:26, etc), and we are also taught to follow their example.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42, NIV
Humans are relational beings that need a community. We were meant to come together and form relationships with both one another as well as God. This is significant to our identity as Christians and as human beings. This makes corporate spirituality a significant part of both spiritual formation as well as spiritual maturity.
The Christian walk is no doubt personal, but it is also social. God calls us to both be dependent upon Him as well as to be active in the world. It is important that we find a healthy balance between both individual spirituality and corporate spirituality.
Either way, one of the most significant institutions for Christian community is the Church; a dynamic gathering of people who are aware of Christ’s love.
I can speak from experience about the importance of rejuvenation and fellowship with other like-minded believers. Life can be absolutely draining. As a Christian, I get so exhausted and depressed by the daily barrage of negativity, false teaching, and insults against my faith.
It is no secret that Christians are often required to embrace values and teachings that oppose many of the values and beliefs upheld by culture. God ingeniously designed the Church community for us so we can be supported as well as guided.
When the culture Christians most often times find themselves in is filled with unbelievers and people who even despise Christianity, Christians need to be able to break free for a time and take refuge within the Church community where they can be edified, encouraged, supported, etc.
“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.” Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV
By sending the Holy Spirit, God gave us all unique gifts and personalities. The sum of all of the parts (unique individuals) makes an incredible whole (the Church) that works together to help one another and to offer service to the kingdom.
There are a series of exhortations within scripture that give us blueprints on how we should develop our roles within the church. There are also a series of ministries built off our spiritual gifts and activity as believers.
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:4-5, NIV
I think often when choosing to renounce church attendance due to issues with other Christians or with disagreements in points of view, the true reason for attending church is being pushed to the side.
Everyone is a sinner thus the congregation is made up of sinners. There is no getting around that, and that is why Christ died for us. Issues with certain people or their viewpoints are not valid excuses to give up going to a church all together.
That isn’t to say that someone should stay at a church that is clearly going against God’s word. Of course not. Yes, the actual task of finding the right church can be daunting. With so many denominations and competing views on doctrine it can be a real struggle finding a church that feels right.
Despite all, we should continue to seek out a church that most closely aligns with God’s word even though no church is perfect.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” Ephesians 5:25, NIV