Scripture is clear that Jesus died for the church (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25) and that the church is His body (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 12:12-27; Ephesians 1:23; 4:12; 5:30; Colossians 1:18, 24; Hebrews 13:3). Participation in a church is essential to the spiritual health of individual Christians. However, statistics gathered by a recent Barna study show that church attendance is in general on the decline in this country. Almost a quarter of Americans are unchurched, even though the majority of them consider themselves Christians and a fifth of them actually read the Bible regularly. Organized religious gathering is becoming less important to the average American.
So, why should Christians attend church? First of all, attendance at corporate gatherings is a biblical mandate. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us not to give up meeting together. It’s significant that the recipients of this letter were under the threat of persecution. Public church attendance could open them up to abuse. The command indicates that the benefits of attendance outweigh any possible threat.
The Christian life was never meant to be solitary. All of the biblical metaphors for a church indicate a plurality, never a singularity: we are a body, a flock, a building, and a holy nation. There are no “lone wolves” in biblical Christianity.
A second reason for church attendance is the array of spiritual blessings it bestows. Negatively speaking, church attendance helps prevent backsliding and apostasy. Without regular participation in corporate worship, one tends to drift spiritually. Positively, church attendance promotes fellowship and encouragement. In the book of Acts, we’re told that those who came to faith in the early days “continued steadfastly in . . . fellowship” (2:42). The Hebrews passage mentioned above reveals that one of the purposes of gathering together is to “encourage one another.” We all need encouragement. Corporate worship provides that for us.
Another reason for corporate worship is the public statement it makes. If we’re regular church attendees, we publicly demonstrate our obedience to the command to love God. To say we love Christ yet neglect His body is hypocritical. Regular church attendance also shows support for the work of God in the world—that we are