Over the last two-thousand years, the Church* has been gathering on the Lord’s Day to worship God. Increasingly, many people, including Christians, are calling into question the necessity of going to a formal church service on Sunday. But are their reasons to forego attending church valid? Below are four common excuses for not attending church services and brief explanations about why each excuse is invalid for those who desire to serve and honor God.
*Throughout this article, I’ve capitalized “Church” when referring to the universal Bride of Christ and have left it lower case when referring to local congregations.
1. The Church Is Filled With Hypocrites
This may be the most frequently cited reason for not attending the gathering of the Church by both non-Christians and professing Christians. Frankly, it’s also the most nonsensical reason.
Of course the Church is filled with hypocrites! In Mark 2:17, Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” In his first letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul explains that “Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Paul goes on to explain that as one of the foremost sinners who ever lived, Jesus saved him, in part, to demonstrate to the world the patience and grace of God.
To enter the Kingdom of God, which is publicly displayed in the Church, a person has to admit that he is a sinner who is totally dependent on Jesus. In other words, if you don’t understand that you’re a sinner, you can’t be a Christian. All Christians are hypocrites because all Christians are sinners. If a church claims to be free of hypocrites, that’s actually a reason to avoid that church.
2. I Can Worship God on My Own
Many people believe that reading their Bible and praying on their own is all that is necessary to worship God on the Lord’s Day. That belief doesn’t square well with the admonition to “not [neglect] to meet together.” Defining “meet together” is a sticking point for many, though.
Throughout the Bible, and specifically the New Testament, God defines what it means for His people to “meet together.” A quick sampling of God’s expectations for the gathered Church: 1 Corinthians 12:26 has the expectation of members who enter into each other’s trials and blessings; Jesus tells his followers in Matthew 18:20 that worship is corporate; pastors and teachers are gifts from God in order to instruct and build up Christians; and, finally, for this short and incomplete list, the sacraments (referred to as ordinances in some churches) are to be administered and received within the context of the Church.
3. I Love Jesus and Not Religion
Several years ago, a video titled “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus” went viral. To his credit, Jefferson Bethke, the video’s creator, clarified that he was speaking about false religion. That distinction is important. Sadly, many professing Christians treat church and religion as synonyms. The thing is, you can’t love Jesus without also loving the Church.
The Church is the Bride of Christ. And as Christ’s Bride, the Church is called to gather together and corporately worship their Heavenly Father. Throughout this article, I’ve frequently referred to the gathering of the Church in place of “attending church.” That’s intentional. In his letter to the Christians in Corinth, Paul writes, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”
As one body with Jesus as the head, the parts, the individuals, are expected to worship and serve God corporately. That requires some level of organization. A professing Christian who doesn’t regularly attend the gathering of the Church is willfully denying the unity found in Jesus and the command to function as a whole and not as separate parts.
4. The Church Just Wants My Money
Some churches may just want your money; in those cases, I submit that those churches might be wolves in sheep’s clothing. However, just because some “churches” are only interested in fleecing the flock doesn’t justify skipping the gathering of Church on the Lord’s Day. To be clear, the presence of an offering plate does not mean that that church is interested in fleecing the flock. In fact, if there isn’t some way for Christians to contribute to the financial ministry of their local body of believers, that church is failing to worship God completely as He commands.
Understandably, tithing is a tricky topic. People become touchy when other people begin talking about how they should surrender any amount of their money. However, Christians are called to recognize that everything they have is God’s. Furthermore, Christians are expected to aid in the ministry of the body of Christ. This doesn’t mean that church leaders should guilt people into giving; it does mean that followers of Jesus should desire to contribute as they’re able to the ministry that Christ’s Bride has been called to. If an individual’s reason for not regularly attending the gathering of the Church is because he doesn’t want to give any money to the church, that may reveal that his god is money.
Christians have been bought with a price, and have been reconstituted as a new people — the people of God. As God’s people, Christians are commanded to gather together and corporately worship God. Professing Christians who refuse to regularly attend the gathering of God’s people, called the Church, are living in direct disobedience to God. None of the excuses listed above justify that disobedience.