According to recent Pew Research data, only 35% of American Christians consider attending religious services as an essential part of their faith.1 Only 28% listed “helping out in your congregation” as essential.
It appears that the majority of self-proclaimed Christians do not know how to answer the question, “Why go to church?”
Why the Complacency?
We can point to several reasons for this: the rise of secularism in society, a celebration of individual autonomy paired with a rejection of institutional faith and authority, and “finding God other places.”
For some Christians, the reason for avoiding church is spiritual, flowing from a lack of understanding the importance of church for spiritual vitality and public witness. Frequency of church attendance is also in decline among weekly attenders and people who attend yearly, presumably on Easter Sunday and Christmas.2
Others claim that they don’t need religion to be “spiritual” or have been so hurt by the church that they swear it off altogether.3 The hurt may be real, but avoiding church will only bring more pain.
Seeing the complacency of many Christians deeply saddens me when I think of brothers and sisters overseas who sacrifice much to gather with God’s people. One pastor our organization trains in Central Asia rents a bus for church services. This isn’t to bus visitors to their church building—it is their church building—they circle the city late at night in the bus to avoid being caught by the police.
Unfortunately, for many in more comfortable settings, church isn’t a priority. Sleep, your kid’s soccer game, Netflix, football, or the lake house take priority, pushing church to the margins of life—if not out altogether. When we push God’s agenda and people out of our lives, we reap the consequences.
If you are already involved in a church, may the Lord remind you of all of the blessings given to you through his people. If you need a church, scroll down for several online church directories.
50+ Things You Miss by Not Attending Church
1. You miss out on obedience to the command to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25).
2. You miss out on loving God in your obedience, and as a result, experiencing him more deeply (John 14:21).
8. You miss out on encouraging others, stirring them toward love and good works, and receiving encouragement from others (Hebrews 10:25).
12. You miss out on submitting to the leaders God has placed over you, and thus submitting to God (Hebrews 13:17).
15. You miss out on agreeing to be accountable for your actions through church discipline, which is an extension of God’s discipline (Matthew 18:15-17).
17. You miss out on being equipped for the work of ministry by ministers called by God and the fruitfulness that comes from having been better equipped (Ephesians 4:11-14).
18. You miss out on giving and receiving prayers for spiritual growth and personal needs (James 5:16).
21. You miss out on serving others and taking your eyes off yourself (Romans 12:9-13).
23. You miss out on celebrating the gospel through baptism (Romans 6:4).
24. You miss out on regular participation in the Lord’s Supper to join saints throughout history to celebrate the saving work of Christ and anticipate his future reign (1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Mark 14:22-25).
27. You miss out on being a testimony to the gospel’s saving and transforming power to the lost world (John 13:34-35).
28. You miss out on uniting across barriers of race and economic status to stand united in the gospel and make friends you wouldn’t ordinarily know (Ephesians 2:11-22; Ephesians 4:3; James 2:1; Revelation 5:9).
29. You miss out on speaking the truth in love to other believers believing and/or practicing unbiblical doctrines (Ephesians 4:15-16).
[Read reasons #31-55.]
Bottom Line: We Need the Church
When Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, he didn’t say, “Why are you persecuting my church?” He said, “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4, emphasis mine). He so identifies with the church that an attack on his people is an attack on him.
Could Jesus be saying to you not only, “Why are you avoiding my church?” but also, “Why are you avoiding me?”
My desire is not to force legalistic rules on anybody. Rather, I hope and pray the Lord will awaken those missing out on church to long for a richer relationship with him as experienced through a vibrant connection with his body.
Where to Go from Here
1. Trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the cross to reconcile rebels to God the Father and make a holy people for himself. Believe in him and in his plan for you, which includes the church.
2. Study Scripture for a biblical view of the church. I recommend starting in Ephesians. Ephesians does an excellent job unfolding God’s glorious purposes for the church in Christ and brings sense to why God would command for us to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25).
3. Read a book that will stir your heart to love the church. I recommend the following:
- Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck
- What is a Healthy Church Member? Thabiti Anywailbe
- How to Walk into Church by Tony Payne
- Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris
4. If you don’t currently attend a healthy, Bible-preaching church, find one. You may consider searching one of the following church directories: 9Marks, The Gospel Coalition, Sermon Audio, The Gospel Coalition’s Spanish-language directory or IgleRed (Latin America). Or if moving somewhere new, ask your pastor for a recommendation.
5. Get involved. Commit yourself to a Bible-believing congregation, join a Bible study, or even have a more mature saint disciple you—I dare you. Perhaps this is just what you need to get past doubts or weaknesses that plague you in your faith.
6. Pray. Ask the Lord to lead you in how to best participate in your local congregation and bless others with your gifts.
[1 “Religion in Everyday Life” from Pew Research. 2 “Church Attendance is Declining” from FamilyFacts.org. 3 And there are churches that you should swear off, mainly churches that reject biblical authority and thereby undermine the gospel. Special thanks to Brandon Myers. A faithful friend, pastor, and ‘freditor’ (friend + editor) who made this article much stronger. Follow Brandon on Twitter.]
[Post Credit: Anchored in Christ | Photo Credit: Take Photo]