Attend Church or Else!

by Greg Albrecht

Editor’s Note: Just what it means to “be” and “do” and “go to” church is a controversial topic within Christendom. Of course there are vested interests, so that the discussion is rarely objective. One of our readers/listeners introduced this conversation, as he reported his response to an article by a pastor (in italics) he felt to be manipulative and self-serving (our reader’s response in regular type). We invite you to be the judge of that!

My wife recently brought home a pastoral newsletter from the church she occasionally attends. I read the lead article and couldn’t believe what I was reading. Have I just gone completely nuts, am I just nit-picking or is what I say the truth?

The article is about church attendance. I may be completely wrong, but it seems to me the article is laying a huge guilt trip on people—making them ashamed enough to show up at church. I excerpt the article below in italics, with my responses following.

Attending Church or Else!
For the last ten years, I have seen the church body through the eyes of a pastor. And there is something I have noticed. There are those who make a concerted effort to attend every possible service. These people are considered the “core” of the church and can be counted on for their attendance, their time and even in their tithes. I have also noticed that there are those who do not make any effort to attend more than a few times a year. Generally at Christmas and Easter time. I conclude that these people are less committed to the church in their time and tithes.

People need to feel the church is committed to them also before they will put themselves out and commit to the church. In any case, isn’t it more desirable to be committed to Christ than to the church?

So the question comes to mind; “Does attending church really make a difference and if so to whom?” In other words, “What difference does it make?” I am of the opinion that it makes a very real difference to everyone. It makes a difference to the individual involved, to the church that could use more of their time and talents, to the community where they would become another shining light, and even to God and his desire that we all become doers of the word rather than just listeners.

All of these things can be done without going to a church. Christ is the head of the universal church and we are all individual members. The church is not some building or denomination that identifies itself as the church. Are you saying we can’t be a shining light outside of a building that calls itself a church?

I think every Christian is obligated to attend every regular service unless some-thing unforeseen keeps them from it.

I’d have to see biblical proof that going to church every Sunday is commanded. This is legalism—man-made ideas and opinions.

Many people go to church sparingly and claim they are committed to the church. In my opinion a person cannot be committed to the church unless they are willing to be at the church at least once per week.

Talk about laying a guilt trip on people! Who made these requirements? As a pastor, you are, like anyone else, entitled to your opinion. But shouldn’t you be careful to say it’s just that—your opinion?

However, many people are lukewarm in their feelings toward the church, and therefore, they are lukewarm in their association with Christ.

One has nothing to do with the other. A person can be lukewarm toward a church for a variety of reasons but still be “hot” for Christ.

If we are serious about Christ, we should also be serious about doing what he tells us to do.

An association with any building that calls itself a church has no bearing on a person’s association with Christ.

In Hebrews 10:25 we read; “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the day approaching.” In this one verse we are warned to not stop meeting with other Christians.

Does this say that people can’t meet other Christians other than at services in a church building?

There are some who will only sacrifice enough of their time to attend church a couple of times per year. Once that person gets into a habit of forsaking church attendance, it becomes easier not to attend at all.

Perhaps it’s more than just a habit. Perhaps their needs aren’t being met by the pastor or the church. The pastor and church need to take some of the blame here.

What kind of message are many of us sending to God each week? We don’t want to be inconvenienced enough to attend regularly and we sure don’t want to feel obligated to serve the church, either in time, talent or money.

It is not more important to serve the church with time, talent or money than it is to serve Christ.

How do you think that makes God feel?

How does God feel when you put the importance on the institution of a church rather than him?

After all, he loves us enough to have sacrificed his Son, and he thinks the least we can do is love his Son enough to sacrifice a little time for him.

We can sacrifice a little or a lot of time for him, but it doesn’t have to be in a church. Are you saying sacrificing can’t be done outside of a building that calls itself a church?

In the Bible we are told many times to edify one another. Now according to the dictionary the word “edify” means to build up, to instruct, to enlighten or to teach. That is what God wants us to do when we gather together; to do these things for others who might need it and for us to receive them when we might need it. Romans 14:19 says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

In Hebrews 3:13 it tells us to “…encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Simply put, God has commanded that we gather together and build each other up. We can not do that if we do not gather together.

Once again, we can gather in places other than a building that calls itself a church.

God has given us another commandment too. In Matthew 6:33 He told us to “seek first the kingdom of God and then everything else will be given to you.” Okay, so Jesus tells us to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness before anything else. Do we? Or, do we seek other things in our lives, and then try to squeeze in a little bit of church time?

Stop trying to guilt people into going to church. Are you saying that we can’t seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness outside of a building that calls itself a church? Does anything in Matthew 6:33 say we must seek the kingdom of God in a building?

I think we have all said, “I just don’t have the time to do everything I need to do.” Well even though we have said that, it is a false statement. We may not have the time to do everything we would like to do but we do have the time to do everything we need to do, and going to church regularly is something we all need to do.

Who says going to church regularly is something we all need to do? Tell me where the Bible says that! It must be another man-made rule or regulation.

It all boils down to priorities. I once had a man actually tell me that one of his chief priorities was getting enough sleep to be healthy but he was so busy the rest of the week, the only time he could actually get that sleep was on Sundays. I think we would all agree that his priorities were all wrong.

Did you know the man’s full story or did you just hear what you wanted to hear?

Can you remember as a child there would be times you didn’t want to go to school and you would tell your mother that you didn’t feel good? Well most of the time when I did that I had to go anyway but that is something we all do, get up and not feel like going somewhere. Many people don’t go to church on Sunday morning because of aches and pains. But those aches and pains won’t keep them from going shopping or to the lake or to a ball game. And no matter how they feel they will get up and go to work on Monday. I am not saying their aches and pains are not real, but I am saying that this clearly shows where church is in their list of priorities.

Children are legally obligated to attend school, and most of us are financially or contractually obligated to work, but in a free country and as Christians, we are free to choose how, where, when and with whom we worship—or whether we go shopping, to the lake or to a ball game instead, irrespective of how we feel.

We get fed God’s word when we are in Sunday school. We get fed God’s word when we hear the sermons in church, and we get fed the Spirit of God when we associate with other Christians. Even the songs are designed to teach us to praise the Lord. The Lord’s Supper helps to bring our hearts closer to Jesus. And the collection of tithes and offerings teach us to be obedient to the Lord’s command. Everything in church was designed to grow you spiritually.

I listen to two sermons every week. Does this mean I’m not fed God’s word because I’m not in a building that calls itself a church? Does the collection of tithes and offerings teach us to be obedient to the Lord’s command? And isn’t tithing an old covenant practice?

Of course there are those who have legitimate reasons for not being in church, but all of us would have to agree that these reasons are few and far between. By going to church faithfully, it helps us build ourselves up in Christ while allowing us to build others up around us in Christ too.

Again, this can be done without ever stepping inside a building. Church attendance is not a requirement for salvation. And “all of us” do not “have to agree” with you.

When you miss church services, knowing you should be there, you feel guilty and feeling guilty will tend to harden your heart.

No it probably doesn’t make many feel guilty. Misinformed, untrue and manipulative articles like this one make people feel guilty.

It will harden your heart a little more each time you miss. And once our hearts are even a little hardened, we will find it that much easier to focus on what we want, rather than on what God wants in other areas of our lives too. Let us always remember what Psalm 122:1 says, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.'”

Yes, this is what Psalm 122:1 says—but read the rest of the Psalm and you may come away with a different understanding.