One of the recent trends among those professing faith in Jesus as Savior is an increasing number who aren’t active in a local church. While this has been trending for some time, it seems to have increased during this time of pandemic isolation and cultural hostility to faith.
Two reasons for not being active in a local church seem to be most prominent. One reason believers give for not attending church is, “I can worship God on my own.” A second reason is some version of, “The church has so many problems.”
Do you know what? There is truth in both of these statements. Each of these reasons given have some points worth examining more fully.
“I can worship God on my own.” We can and should worship the Lord at times and places other than Sunday mornings in a church building. There is power in worshipping the Lord in the beauty of the outdoors and in other settings. Believers should marvel at God’s design of the heavens as did the Psalmist. We do well to see worship as an activity we engage in at any time and place. And, worship can be intensely personal and private.
Need we make this an “either/or” proposition? Can’t we worship the Lord both privately and publicly? Ought not we consider doing both? Aren’t we able to worship God both at the beach and in the auditorium? Might we better see this as a “both/and” proposition?
“The church has so many problems.” It is true that the church has problems. This is a point worth the church’s attention. The problem, of course, is that the church is made up of people and all people are fallen, sinful and broken. But, churches have sometimes masked their fallen nature, excused sinful behavior and allowed harmful attitudes and activities in their midst. Though we profess Jesus as Lord, we sometimes fail to live that out well and fall into the very hypocritical behavior Jesus criticized so harshly.
Does the imperfect nature of the local church mean we should trash the institution itself? Ought we neglect the church because it has hypocrisy even though Jesus must have known this when he instituted it? Do we paint with brushes so broad that the improprieties of one church justifies us painting the whole with the worst of motives and, therefore, unworthy of our attendance? An important question to ask is, “Might the local church be both imperfect and valuable?”
I am reminded of God’s word in Hebrews 10:23-4 which speaks to believers who might have these same doubts about being active in a local church. These are God’s words to us and not just the words of the pastor or a parent or a fellow Christian. This is God’s instruction to us, reminding us of the value and the importance of attending and participating in a local church.
“And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-4
I want to encourage you to listen to God’s reminder to “not neglect to gather together”, even though many have made that their “habit”. The culture, even the Christian culture, says the local church is unimportant and unnecessary. But God’s word says otherwise and that is important to recognize.
Maybe you will consider these things and reexamine the role of the church in your life. Maybe you will see God’s design and plan for you and the church. So, I’m attending my local church this week and I hope you will too!