It’s quite common to hear someone say, “I’m a Christian but I don’t go to church.” As a follow-up, we often hear that this person has been hurt by the church or doesn’t think the church is necessary for a personal relationship with God—their faith is just more of their own private thing. Whether you believe this or are engaging someone who does, here are a few reasons why it’s important to go to church:
1. It’s where we meet with King Jesus.
I don’t know about you, but even when I’m reading Scripture, I’m continually distracted by the enormity of my own sin and the cares of the world. In prayer, my petitions to the Lord can often fill me with increased fear, even though I came for relief. This is the twisted nature of the human heart—even one transformed by the Holy Spirit.
When we go to church, Jesus meets us in a special way through the preaching of his word (Rom. 10). It’s like he draws us all collectively by the chin and invites us to look into his very heart. In Sunday worship, the repetitive soundtrack of satanic sermons is broken and replaced with the sweet music of the Good Shepherd’s love. We need to hear from Jesus and rest in him before we can get back to work!
2. It’s where we get to gather with our eternal family.
Friends come and go, and so does family. We often find our relationships rooted in work, hobbies, politics, or culture. When God calls people out of darkness and into light, he does so with people from every walk of life.
And that’s what makes the church family so special. We’re often as different as can be, but we hungrily lap at the same river of God’s love together. Not only are we united by the broken bonds of sin, suffering, and shame, but also in the realization that these bonds all lost their hold when we were numbered amongst God’s elect. Thus, we spur each other on toward love and good deeds, helping each other tune our hearts to sing God’s grace.
3. It’s where we most feel the shepherd-hand of Jesus.
The Lord gives us other gifts through the church that simply can’t be grasped on our own. God shows his love for us in baptism and communion: We delight to see the Lord show his love to a new baby or baby Christian through baptism and celebrate and rest in that love together through communion. These are things we can neither perform nor partake of alone.
We also feel the gentle weight of the Good Shepherd’s hand in how we’re cared for by the elders and deacons of the church. The elders teach, counsel, and discipline us, reminding us that we’re always under the watchful eye of our loving God. Similarly, the deacons minister to our material needs, reminding us that our bread comes from the Lord alone.
4. It’s where we’re pointed to our eternal rest in Christ.
We’re made to both work and rest, and we’re generally pretty bad at both. We go about our labors, but we encounter thorns and thistles, not only in the world around us but in the heart within us. Our rest is constantly invaded by idolatry and anxiety. We try to alleviate this discomfort through our home remedies of technology, experience, and busyness—but all to no avail. There is no rest for our weary hearts except that which comes through the Lord of the Sabbath.
When God calls us into worship each week on the Lord’s Day, he’s reminding those of us who labor and are heavy-laden that he alone can grant us rest. And we don’t just need this for the present; we all yearn for the day when he will also give us rest from sin and misery. The rest we enjoy at church is a foretaste of the feast we will enjoy in glory.
Enjoy Your Salvation
Jesus has beckoned us to come to him and enabled us to do so by the Holy Spirit. But this invitation isn’t merely about our salvation in him; it’s about enjoying our salvation in him. We can come to him in worship at church each week, eager to receive all that his generous heart will give us.
This is not to say that you have to go to church to be a Christian—it’s just very hard to be a Christian without going to church. Next time somebody tells you that they’re a Christian but don’t go to church, don’t just tell them they’re wrong, remind them that God is too loving to leave us to ourselves. He has provided for us his church.