By Thom S. Rainer
I think I’ve heard most of the excuses.
“You don’t need to attend church to be a good Christian.”
“We give our family priority when we miss church to do sports on Sunday.”
“My church really doesn’t meet my needs.”
“I’m not getting fed at my church.”
“Sunday is really the only day we have off.”
“My church has a bunch of hypocrites.”
I will deal with these and other lame excuses later. For now, I want to focus on the positive. Why is it important for us to attend church services regularly, usually weekly? Allow me to share nine reasons.
- The local church was God’s plan in the New Testament. From the founding of the first local church in Jerusalem to the growth of new congregations throughout the Roman Empire, the New Testament is clear. God wanted His people gathering regularly and faithfully. And lest we forget, all of these congregations had problems. All of these churches had problem people. Hypocrisy was real and pervasive, but it was not a valid excuse to give up the local church.
- The Bible speaks clearly about the priority of local congregations. If you read the New Testament from Acts to Revelation, you will see that a gathered church was not just one important factor for the Christian, it was one of the highest priorities. After the ascension of Jesus, the local church was truly “the body of Christ.”
- We are commanded and designed to enjoy worshipping the one true God as a gathered community. What if church members really did one thing in worship services? What if they asked God to let them see Him and know Him fully as the church gathered together? What if that was the priority over evaluating the style of music? What if that was more important than the preacher preaching five minutes more than you deemed appropriate?
- A unified church can stand strong in a culture turning away from God. We can’t be a unified church with sporadic attendance. We can’t stand together if we aren’t persistently gathered together. Do you remember how the early church in Jerusalem reached a culture opposed to God? The outside world saw the unity and joy of the church and wanted to know more about this Jesus they worshipped. Remember, they were “praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those were being saved” (Acts 2:47). A faithfully attended church is a unified church. A unified church is an evangelistic church.
- The world looks at our priorities and evaluates what we deem as important. Expanding on the previous point, we can’t expect the community we serve to get excited about our church if the members of the community see it to be a low priority among the members. The twice-a-month attendees make the church an afterthought. The once-a-month attendee hardly thinks about the church at all.
- Accountability takes place in the local church. When we gather together worshipping with others, we are holding each other up and accountable. When we belong to a small group in the church, our absence is conspicuous. We need people holding us accountable in love. We need others looking after us. Accountability is indeed a good thing.
- Families that attend church faithfully and regularly are happier and healthier families. The research from the secular world is overwhelming. Study after study shows that families who are in church almost every week are among those with the best-adjusted children. Marriages are healthier. Small children grow to become mature and joyous adults. Though these studies are affirming, we can see throughout the New Testament how God has a clear and compelling plan for His children and their families to gather together regularly and faithfully.
- Discipleship takes place in the local church. There seems to be this big mystery about discipleship. How do we do discipleship? Exactly what is discipleship? How does that work in the local church? Remember, discipleship is simply becoming more like Christ. We become more like Christ as we gather and worship together. We become more like Christ when we belong to a small group and do community together. We become more like Christ as we listen to the preached Word every week. We become more like Christ as we do ministry and evangelism through our local church. For sure, discipleship can take place outside the local church. But the New Testament clearly demonstrates the local congregation is God’s “Plan A” for growing as a disciple.
- God gives us great joy when we serve others through the local church. For sure, there are some grumpy and miserable church members. They seem to have a common trait. There are things in the church that aren’t going their way. They are not getting their worship style. They are not getting themselves fed. They don’t like the way the pastor does things because it’s not their way. They focus on three people: me, myself, and I. But we can experience incredible joy as we serve others, as we put others before ourselves, as we don’t focus on our own preferences and desires. We experience incredible joy as we serve other church members and those who reside in our community.
All of these nine reasons, of course, presume we are faithful attenders. We are neither obedient nor are we able to experience the full joy of our church if we attend once or twice a month or even less.
Faithful weekly church attendance is important. It brings us joy. It helps us to grow spiritually. It is one of the primary characteristics of a healthy family.
Above all, it is an act of obedience to God.
And that’s what really matters.
Posted on December 16, 2019
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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I’m glad you talked about how attending church helps to unite a family. Recently, my wife and I started to grow interested in religion. We’ve never been very spiritual, but we’d like to know more about it, so we’ll be sure to consider your advice. Thanks for the information on going to church and its benefits for our lives.
I like what you said about attending church since God wants his people to gather regularly. My wife and I want to make sure that we’re doing the right things in God’s eyes in the coming weeks. We’ll be sure to look into our options for going to church.
Thank you for this article. I am struggling with attendance right now. I used to be a faithful attender and server. Our church had a narcissist for a pastor and I felt used and abused. Our church let that pastor go and the church went through a nasty split. I served and attended faithfully through the transition but now I’m struggling to attend. I would say I’m a once a month attender. During all this I also completed my masters in divinity but I can’t see how I will ever work within a church setting again. I have a personal relationship with Jesus but I am leery of his people.
You say that “…the local congregation is God’s “Plan A” for growing as a disciple.” I can’t think of any clear evidence of this. Jesus, for example, did not work through a congregation but through individual relationships. Where in the New Testament does the congregation specifically create discipleship?
There’s also the fact that the command to “forsake not the assembly of yourselves together…” is pinned to the back of the real command; namely to consider how we might prompt one another to love and good works. And i’t a little hard to prompt pne another if we’re not there.
Thank you Sir,
I find myself engaged in this conversation often. Arguing for the assembling of the body for all the reasons you’ve stated, singing the hymns of grace, preaching and hearing the word and the repetition of the sacraments to put us in remembrance of the gospel.
Church has always been my second favorite place to be all my life, right after home. All my best friends have been and still are, fellow church members. I have my special seat up in the choir loft, where I feel safe and loved. It is a running joke that my attendance is better than the pastor’s! I am excited on Sunday morning to see what hymns we are singing, what the readings are, and the subject of the sermon. Being a choir singer since I was 10 years old, the anthems are always special, all the music is very meaningful. I often do readings, the children’s message and even the sermon up in the pulpit! I am a Presbyterian Elder and women can be in charge. I will use this in my next sermon-very good and true words.
Thank you so much for this! I am planning to preach in January on who we are as a church and why it is important to be a part of the body. Going to go over our vision and mission statements and our church covenant. Going to touch on the value of church membership. This article is very applicable to all of this so I saved your post to use as a bulletin insert in January giving you full credit of course…I think it will speak to people’s hearts! Thank you again!
It is an honor and a privilege to worship openly and I will do so gratefully.
Very nice indeed. Can you provide further resources on point 8, please?
Great article. Would love to translate it and include in a newsletter to Welsh nonconformist churches in Wales who greatly need some encouragement! Will acknowledge if you agree.