My pastor went to church with a man who faithfully attended every week, though he was completely deaf. When someone asked why he attended church, though he could not hear a word of sermon or song, he signed back: “I want people to know whose side I’m on!”
However, among many, church attendance is not as valuable as it used to be. A 2017 Gallup poll revealed that regular church attendance in America dropped 15% in 25 years. In 1992, 70% of American’s claimed to be regular attenders of a house of worship. In 2017 the number dropped to 55%. Another find was that in 2016, 79% of Americans claimed to have some religious affiliation, but only 55% were members of a church or synagogue—a difference of 24%.
Sharing his thoughts on these statistics, Jayson Bradley wrote “It probably isn’t necessary (or helpful) to continue to pick on the people who don’t see regular church attendance as important to them. The problem here isn’t really an intellectual one; it’s a spiritual one. Instead, the church should continue to focus on reaching those who have not yet made a religious commitment” (October 23, 2017, Relevant Magazine). In other words, churches should keep the main thing—proclaiming the gospel—the main thing.
CNN Religion Editor, Daniel Burke, reported on a Pew Research Center survey of 4,729 Americans. When asked why they do not attend church, they gave these reasons: They practice their faith in “other ways” (37%). They are not believers (28%). They do not think it is very important (26%). They haven’t found a house of worship they like (23%). They don’t like the sermons (18%). They don’t feel welcome in the services (14%). They don’t have the time (12%). They have poor health or lack mobility (9%). They have no house of worship in their area (7%).
Burke pointed out that more than 60% said they have poor health and difficulty getting around, and that 54% said they didn’t attend because they had not felt welcomed by the congregation. So he summarized, this means there is a sizeable group who would attend services if someone helped get them there, and welcomed them when they arrived.
Far more important than statistics and cultural trends, we need to know why God expects us to attend church, and to worship with other believers. Here are five biblical reasons:
ONE: We should attend church and worship so we can, in a corporate way, enjoy the presence of Christ. Jesus said, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20). In Scripture, the “church” never refers to a single, individual, lone ranger Christian who does not gather with other believers. By its very nature, the church is the gathering of believers in the name of Christ.
TWO: We should attend church so we can learn God’s Word, fellowship with God’s people, and grow spiritually. On the day of Pentecost, 3,000 new believers in Christ were baptized and added to the original 120-member church (Acts 1:15; 2:41). Those who were saved, baptized and added that day “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). After they were saved, they committed themselves to following Jesus, in the company of and fellowship with, the church Jesus had established. These church members grew spiritually and began to reach thousands in their city with the saving gospel (Acts 4:4; 5:14; 6:7).
THREE: We should attend church to obey God’s command of “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). Assembling together as a body of born-again, baptized believers, should be of paramount importance to followers of Christ. And “all the more” as the days grow difficult and the coming of Christ draws near.
FOUR: We should attend church for the blessing of other believers. Church is the place where believers can love one another – “if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). It is the place where members get encouragement from one another – “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Church is where members spur one another on – “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). It is where members assist each other – “through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). Church is also the place where members give counsel and advice to each other – “You yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another” (Romans 15:14).
FIVE: We should attend church for the benefit of our community. As a church loves the Lord, each other and people around them, as they live holy lives for Jesus, they flesh out the love of Christ – “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Every church—composed of saved, Christ-following people—will improve the quality of their community and clearly proclaim the gospel to unsaved people both at home and abroad.
There’s a popular saying: “You don’t go to church—you are the church.” While I get the idea, there should be no conflict between “being the church” and “going to church.” In reality we cannot fully “be” the church if we don’t actually “go” to church. If you know Christ, take the next step—get involved and serve with His people in His church—so that He will get the glory—“To Him be the glory in the church” (Ephesians 3:21).