“Being the Church” Isn’t Enough: We Need to Go to Church

Being the church is essential, but it isn’t enough. The church is not just what people are. It’s also what we do. We need to go to church.

go to church

It’s really popular to say “We don’t go to church, we are the church.”

I very much agree with the last half of that sentence. The church is, has been and always will be people. Not buildings, not creeds, not denominations, not institutions. We are it.

But I disagree with the first half of that saying as much as I agree with the last half. We do attend church. Or we should.

Being the church is essential, but it isn’t enough. The church is not just what people are. It’s also what we do. And a big part of what Christians have always done is to gather.

No, it doesn’t have to be in a traditional church building. But it should be something that, at minimum, affects our schedule on a weekly basis. And it should include corporate worship, biblical instruction, mutual prayer, and genuine fellowship.

We Need to Go to Church

I sympathize with the sentiment behind “we don’t go, we are.” It’s a noble attempt to correct generations of overemphasis on going without being. But it’s just as dangerous to swing the pendulum too far the other direction. It is misleading and unhelpful to pit one against the other.

We must emphasize that we are the church without negating the importance of going to church. Indeed, when we’re serious about being the church we should become more passionate about the essential need to attend church, not less.

To do one without the other is to take neither very seriously.

Going to church without being the church? That’s empty at best, and often a hypocritical power-play. Being the church without going to church? The lack of going will always undermine the value of being.

This is true no matter how mature or immature your faith may be. Seekers need to attend in order to ask questions and hear instruction. Immature believers need it to gain maturity and strength. Mature believers need it because guiding others along in their faith walk is an essential part of our faith walk.

11 Reasons We Need to Go to Church

1. To Obey God’s Commands To Gather

So many of Christ’s commands cannot be followed if we’re not meeting together. From communion, to water baptism, to mutual prayer and more, the “going to” is essential.

2. To Worship God Together

Something extraordinary happens when individual members of Christ’s body gather together to worship him. I can and do worship Jesus in all places and times, but the gathering of the body helps me focus more on Christ and others, less on myself. That matters. A lot.

3. To Connect With A Local Body

Corporate worship matters. Praying together matters. Working together, learning together, talking together, dreaming together. All of it matters.

4. To Serve The Body Of Christ

Love and service require proximity. Yes, we can do a lot of good things remotely, but most of it cannot be done unless we spend at least some time in the same room together.

5. To Grow In Faith

The gathered church challenges me. They push me. They irritate me. They bless me. They force me to live and get along with people I would otherwise avoid. I need that. They need that. We need that.

6. To Regulate My Life Rhythms

Missing church messes with my week. It affects my body, soul and spirit in negative ways. Connecting with a local body at least every seven days provides a rhythm of life that I need. No one can live in a healthy way without those markers that tell us not just who and where we are, but when we are.

7. To Stay Grounded Spiritually

It’s become way too easy for most of us to spend far too much time isolated and alone. This creates dangerous echo chambers. Politically, personally, emotionally and spiritually, we become shallow, one-note shells of our former selves. None of us are immune to this.

Being with God’s people grounds me, my life and my thoughts into the real world, real people, and their real needs.

8. To De-individualize My Faith

The western (especially the American) church is very individualistic – to a far greater degree than anything we see in scripture. While there are unhealthy churches which enforce that selfish world-view, connecting to a healthy church body helps me de-individualize my faith in important ways.

No one else can live my faith for me. But it’s essential to find people who will live faith with me. We need to connect with each other. We are not alone.

9. To Practice Sabbath

Planned rest is hard for me. Left to myself, I would go full-tilt until I crashed full-on. Sabbath is designed by God to force us to pause, refresh, renew and rediscover God at the center of our lives. And the scheduled gathering of God’s people is a central aspect to helping that happen.

10. To Honor The Persecuted Church

The history of the persecuted church shows us that believers were seldom persecuted for simply believing. That’s impossible to monitor. Instead, they were persecuted for practicing their faith – and the main way they practiced it was to gather.

Thus, most of the Christians who have been beaten, tortured and killed for their faith faced those horrors because gathering was important enough that they risked their lives for it – and the lives of their loved ones.

I cannot flippantly say “We don’t go to church, we are the church” when the persecuted church has, and still does, give up so much to go.

11. To Find Healing From Church-Inflicted Wounds

Of all the reasons for not attending church, I relate the most to those who have been hurt – often deeply and repeatedly – within the walls of a church. If that is you, anything I say in response to your pain is likely to ring hollow at best. So I will only speak from my own experience.

I have been hurt in church. Deeply and repeatedly. In an exceptionally unhealthy and toxic environment. I was also healed in and through the congregation. Among a congregation of people who had also been hurt, deeply and repeatedly.

But we banded together in our pain. And Jesus, the crucified savior, was there with us. Sharing our pain. Providing our healing.

In those shared “going to” experiences, we found healing and hope together.

 

This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

Karl Vaters
Karl Vaters is the author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. He’s been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and has been the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California for over 20 years. He’s also the founder of NewSmallChurch.com, a blog that encourages, connects and equips innovative Small Church pastors.