Do Christians have to go to church?

Many professing Christians do not attend church. Researchers have identified a significant and growing part of the American population that professes to be religious but has no church affiliation. This is somewhat understandable given the many abuses, scandals, fights and problems in churches. On the other hand, longheld tradition and the teaching of most churches is that Christians should attend church on a regular basis. Does the Bible teach church attendance is an obligation for the child of God?

Yes, the child of God is commanded by God to regularly attend church. God specifically commands Christians to make it a habit to go to church. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” (Hebrews 10:25) This instruction carries the weight of an imperative, it is a command. Christians are to be a regular part of the church gathering. The problems of our world and within churches does not justify a lack of attendance. Hebrews 10 says church attendance becomes more, not less, important the closer we get to Jesus retunr.

Besides the specific command to attend church the New Testament also gives commands that a Christian can only obey by participating in the regular assembly of the believers. The Lord’s Supper is an obligation for every Christian to observe on a regular basis. The ordinance of communion is so important it was given to the twelve disciples by Jesus and later Paul was instructed by Jesus Himself concerning its keeping. (1 Corinthians 11:23) The Lord’s Supper is always a corporate event to be observed in the church gathering. For the Christian to be obedient by celebrating Communion on a regular basis he must also be be a regular part of the church gathering.

The Christian is to be active in a wide range of Christian virtues that can only be accomplished by faithful church attendance. For example, Colossians 3 commands Christians to be patient, forgiving, loving and peaceful. In that passage the commands are not given to individuals to be obeyed in isolation. They are commands given to Christians gathered together. Christians are called to have those virtues as part of a body of believers. (Colossians 3:15) Christian virtue must be exercised in the public gathering. The very next verse in Colossians continues in this corporate focus by directing the gathered church to sing together. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16) For the Christian to practice Christian virtues in the church he must be a regular participant in the gathering of believers.

Church attendance does not save a person. Salvation is only received through faith in Jesus without any work on the part of the Christian. To conclude that because a person’s salvation is not dependent on church attendance then a Christian does not have to go to church is to completely miss the point. The Bible is full of commands that have nothing to do with salvation but are nevertheless required for the believer. God expects His children to gather together as part of a church.

Walking in the woods and worshiping God is not the same as attending church. Private prayer and personal Bible study are not the same as going to church. Watching a preacher online is not the same as being in church. Private worship, listening, study and prayer are essential, but the Bible commands the Christian to assemble. Yes, Christians must regularly assemble together as the church.

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