Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Is attending church a biblical mandate?

On March 8 the Mobile Press-Register published a letter to the editor from Neal Parker. In the letter Neal stated that he and his wife are "Believing Christian conscientioius objectors to organized religion." He and his wife quit attending church because of some bad experiences they had in church. Following is a response letter I sent to the editor.

On March 8 the Mobile Press-Register published a letter to the editor from Neal Parker under the headline Church not being a church. In the letter he stated, “The church is not acting like it is the church, and has not for centuries.” He stated that he grew up and was saved in church. He quit attending , however, because each week, his pastor continued to preach that he and the congregation were “sorry, unfaithful backsliders.” His wife quit attending when, as a child, she was told that she could not bring a black friend to Vacation Bible School. He says that he and his wife are Christians who have chosen to be “conscientious objectors to organized religion.”

I am the first to admit that the church is far from perfect. But an imperfect church is not an excuse for your own disobedience. Based on God’s Word, I believe that those who profess Christ but reject attending church cannot be Christians.

Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), therefore, His Word is as relevant for today as it was when He first revealed His Word to the biblical authors. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about attending corporate worship.

First, from the very beginning God commanded that His people gather together for the purpose of worship and instruction. Deuteronomy 31:12 says, “Assemble the people--men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns--so they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law.” There were no exclusions. All of God’s people were to assemble. Hebrews 10:25 commands, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” Corporate worship is a biblical command. Disobeying God’s command to participate in corporate worship is no less rebellion against God than disobeying God’s command to not judge or to love one another.

Second, in Ephesians, Paul describes the church as the bride of Christ whom Jesus loves so much that He sacrificed Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). If I told you, “I love you but I can’t stand your wife,” you would be very offended and our relationship would be strained at best. Likewise, when a person says, “I love Jesus, but I do not want to have anything to do with the church,” his relationship with Christ is not right.

Also in Ephesians 5 and in Colossians 1 Paul refers to Christ as the “head” and the church as the “body.” In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul explains how the body (the church) is made up of individual Believers who work together for the purpose of building up the church. To refuse to be a part of the body is to reject God’s plan for our lives and for His church. In a sense, by acting on our own, we claim that we have a better plan than God does. There is a lot of pride and arrogance in such thinking.

Finally, the New Testament describes what constitutes true corporate worship. New Testament worship includes praise (Heb. 13:15; 1 Pet. 2:9), corporate prayer (1Tim. 2:8; cf. Phil. 4:6), singing (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19), Scripture reading (Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27; 1 Tim. 4:13), preaching (1Tim. 4:6-16; 2 Tim. 4:2; Acts 20:7-9), and communion (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20).

By not being involved in corporate worship we are not participating in the very acts of worship that God has ordained for us. It is the Christian’s greatest privilege to stand with fellow believers, in the presence of God, to offer up to Him the sacrifice of praise which is due His name. Corporate worship today is preparation for worship in eternity.

Just a thought!