Why should I go to church? Can't I just worship in my own home alone?
One reader wrote, "Why should I go to church? Can't I just worship in my own home alone?" I would like to engage with this question over the next two weeks, addressing each question on its own. I think both of them deserve some time to clear up any misconceptions.
Defined, the global church is everyone who is a follower of Jesus. The local church, on the other hand, is the local gathering of followers. In other words, the church is not a building, or a denomination, but a group of people gathered together. The Greek word for church actually means just that, gathering. So, the question should actually be stated, why should I gather with other followers of Jesus?
I want to mention that questions like this are often built upon a foundation of wounds. Many times (not always), when people come to the point when they're fed up with a local gathering of believers, it is because they have experienced some kind of pain at the hands of someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus, normally in the form of organized religion. If your bitterness is preventing you from gathering with other Christians, I would like to gently exhort you that you can only run from your pain for so long. Wounds, hurt, and back stabbings do happen, more often than I would like to admit, but they need to be dealt with and not run from.
Assuming that it is not some sort of unforgiveness in your heart that is preventing you from attending a local gathering, the reason for why you should gather with other believers is very clear. “...not neglecting to meet 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). Basically, you should gather with other believers because it is commanded of you.
Now I want to be careful here, because I don't want to suggest that something is only a gathering of other believers if it is a certain size, a certain brand, a certain method. That is not what I'm trying to suggest. I am simply quoting the Bible in stating that you are commanded to gather with other followers of Jesus. Why?
If you are a follower of Christ, you are considered to be a body part of Jesus. The Scriptures define Jesus as the head and the church, the gathering of his followers, as his body. One person is a knee, one person is an eye, one a toe, and so on and so forth. Using this analogy, scripture tries to explain our need to be together in community.
We are commanded as followers of Jesus to love one another, forgiving one another, bear with one another, encourage one another daily, exhort and challenge one another, not go to bed angry at one another, sharpen one another through teaching and accountability, and so on and so forth. At the risk of stating the obvious, it is quite difficult to “one another" another person if you aren't actually with other people.
There is a reason for all of this, and it has to do with making the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, to appear very large to those who are not followers of Jesus. Jesus made it clear that the world is supposed to recognize that he is real by the love that followers of Christ have for one another. If you are practicing your faith in isolation, you are short changing God’s design for his people. Now, this is not to suggest that community is easy. It is miserably difficult at times, but that is why we need the grace of Christ to go forward in all those “one another” commands.
Another aspect of this community and the people of God being formed as a body, has to do with how we only are designed to function when we are together. Not all of us have the same gifts, wiring, talents, or abilities. When someone, who claims to be a follower of Jesus, is not engaged in community with other followers of Jesus, the body feels it.
Imagine, tomorrow, if you were to wake up without a kneecap. You would notice. You might even realize that it is difficult to perform basic functions. The rest of the body would compensate. You would maybe feel pressure in your hip, in your spine, in your abdominal wall, and other parts of your body that now need to make up for the absent body part.
The same is true of the gathering of God's people in what we call the church. We are designed to go together. All of this is partly why Scriptures command us to meet together regularly. We meet together, regularly, under qualified leadership, to worship God together, to learn from the word of God together, to celebrate communion together, to celebrate baptism together, and to love one another.
In obedience, we gather together, and then, in obedience, we scatter to bring the good news of Jesus to a needy world.