Regarding church or not... One's validity as a true Believer, is not determined by church attendance. Being in a church building does not make you a Christian any more than being in a garage makes you a car. However, a garage is a good place for a car to be, it receives a certain amount of protection in a garage that it does not receive outside of the garage.
I fell out of the habit of church attendance for a number of years. I did not make a decision to leave, there were practical considerations that helped me to just fall out of the habit. I am not a very sociable person, so I felt no compelling need to have other believers in my life. Most sermons I ever heard, even in good, Bible believing churches, seemed geared to babes in Christ, and that is how it should be I think. New Christians typically need the feeding they get in a good church.
I as a Believer of over 20 years at the time (over 30 now) felt as though I was getting the same things over and over and could not see a lot of benefit to me to be attending. I could learn fine in self-study, I could pray alone better than I could corporately, and I could worship God in song and in other ways by myself, perhaps more authentically, than I could in a corporate environment. I still believe these things.
I avoided church, because I found it inconvenient, not very pleasant, a bit of a waste of my time, and I felt that I had enough knowledge that there was little to be gained theologically.
My family moved to a new city. My girls wanted to find a new church (they had been attending church in our old hometown) and they picked one out and began attending. I eventually went along and got into the habit of church attendance again.
Pause. Look for a moment at the bold red print above. If you do not attend church, do any of those reasons resonate with you? No need to answer here, just think about it and judge for yourself if you have similar thoughts. What I noticed about what I wrote there, is that every single reason, whether true or not, was very selfish. In spite of my 20 years as a serious Believer, I did not realize that I was not really a mature believer.
Sure my knowledge of the bible was as good as most people who attended church, at least in my own estimation, but I was looking at church in terms of what I could get out of it. As 1st Cor. 13 says, there is a better way - love.
There is nothing loving about selfishness, which is what the red paragraph epitomizes. Here, not far from me, was a building full of fellow believers, people the Bible informs me, that if I am a Christian, I understand they are my brothers and sister and that I love them if I am real. How am I demonstrating my love for them, by avoiding them? Rather than attend church to get what I can from it, I should have been attending, to give what I can of my substance, my time, my abilities, etc. How can I responsibly pray for these people, if I do not know their specific needs? If I think I know the bible better than many of them, shouldn't I be sharing what I have learned?
Regarding my lack of interest in corporate prayer and worship, does it really detract from what I do in private? Why cannot I do both? If there is something in me that doesn't like crowds, is not interested in being part of a group, feels no need to socialize, does that make those things wrong or worthless, or does this just point out a personal shortcoming. Clearly, we’re created as social beings and part of the body of Christ if we are believers. Avoiding Church is effectively amputating a part of the Body.
I now attend church in several ways. I attend a bible study, I attended the service. I attend a home fellowship, I attend special events, I attend a program where men are seeking to learn to be men the way the bible defines the idea of masculinity, and I attend Worthy Forums and Chat.
I have found that the more effort I but into giving and loving the church, the more I get out of it. Turns out that not being self-seeking, is the best path toward self-benefit. Sure, I still have some vain ideas that I have fair bible knowledge, and I am not expecting to learn much in any given sermon, but I have found that to not be true, in an unexpected way.
Sermons often remind me, of what I know, and get me to think about things I have been avoiding or neglecting in my walk with the Lord. Other times, I hear something, that triggers a thought, and as I sit there pondering the thought for a moment, a new revelatory concept manifests in my own mind, as a result of something the pastor just said. The pastor in my current church is not lazy, he really studies hard and always brings something that I have not heard before, in spite of my expectation that that would not usually happen.
Immature believers often complain that they feel that the church is a judgmental place. In my opinion, that usually means they feel guilty about something they know inwardly is true, and they do not like that feeling of that conviction. If one never feels such convictions, then I think it is entirely possible that either that person is already perfect and no improvement is possible. Or they are in a place where their fellow believers lack spine, and do not want to offend anyone and so just ignore the opportunity to help their brother of sister grow.
A normal aspect of a healthy Christian community will as a necessity include some constructive criticism. A mature believer will not be offended by that, or at least not for long, but will instead, welcome the opportunity to consider the criticism as a catalyst leading to self-improvement.
If someone says to you, “Brother (or sister), from what you are saying, it sounds as if you rarely ever share to Gospel with the lost, maybe you should think about being more obedient in that aspect of your life…”
Which is more likely the way you would respond:
1. I am sorry that I don't meet your standards, I guess I am just not perfect like you!
2. Yes, you are right, I do not evangelize enough, perhaps you can pray for me in that regard, and we can encourage each other to be more faithful. Thank you.
Now, I did not put that example there for your reflection about evangelism etc. I merely mean to point out that criticism can be seen as a positive or negative experience, depending on your attitude about it. If a criticism has validity feel free to ignore it as the action of a “misinformed busybody”, thank them for their concern and move on. Usually I imagine, the criticism is at least partially valid, and if they are indeed, a “misinformed busybody”, you can still benefit from considering their words.
The question is asked: Does the bible say we have to attend church? Why would someone ask this question?
It is possible, that the question is genuine, and they really do not know they answer. I suspect that is rarely the case though and if you were to say that in 1st Corinthians chapter 9, verse 28-30 it says:
28 Now brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant about the gathering of the saints. 29 Make it a priority to meet together on the first day of the week, for common prayer and worship, teaching , rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, and the giving of your time and substance, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 30 See to it that exercise the love our God has given you for His church, treating one another with honor and concern.
My suspicion is that most who ask to see proof of a Bible mandate to participate in church, would be disappointed to see such a passage. This is not in the Bible. My belief is that most who want that proof, only say so because in the absence of such a passage, they can use that as a license and justification to watch football, play video games, sleep in, mow the lawn, or whatever they do in place of attending a local church.
The question is not, or should not be about whether or not is okay to skip church. Paul already answered this and things like it in general 1 Cor. 10:23-24:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
So, is skipping church constructive and beneficial? There you need to be the judge.
Edited by GoldenEagle, 15 October 2013 - 02:43 PM.
formatting and grammar... also added text in red to clarify what was not in Scripture. fantastic post!