Although I get asked many questions about theology and the Bible, one of the more frequent ones revolves about why it is important to attend church. After all, people profess a belief in Jesus and that’s enough, isn’t it? John 3:16 says that all we have to do is to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior and we will be saved. Isn’t that all there is? Without trying to be funny, the answer is “yes” and at the same time “no.”
If we are speaking about salvation, then believing in Jesus is enough – that gets you on the bus headed for heaven. While we are at it, that means that your eternal life begins the moment you accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Contrary to popular belief, your eternal life doesn’t begin at the end of your physical life – it starts while you are still alive on this earth – the moment your profess your belief.
So, why church? Who cares anyway? People tell me that they read the Bible and that they pray and they are good people and all the other things we all say when we are trying to defend our actions as Christians. But more and more people confide in me that they just don’t see the need to attend “organized” church. That’s because they don’t like the politics of church, or getting up on Sunday morning, or listening to a boring sermon, or participating in a worship experience they just don’t care for.
Let’s face it – church is inconvenient. And since we are Christ followers and we are a priesthood of New Testament believers, we don’t need any intercessor, other than Christ Himself, for us anyway, do we? You know that all of this is true… Except…
Christ does expect us to attend church. It’s quite clear in Scripture. In fact, it’s called the “ekklesia” in Greek and started as the “assembly” way back in the Old Testament when Moses received the 10 commandments from God. In fact, that day was so important in the ancient Jewish culture that the gathering of the people on the day Moses received the commandments is referred to as the “Day of Assembly”.
Similarly, in the New Testament, Jesus told Peter and the apostles that He would build His church, or “called out assembly” and that the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. So, it seems clear that Jesus, in His own way, was letting us know that just as the Jews met in an assembly, the New Testament Christians would be expected to do the same thing. While it is clear that believing in Jesus is the necessary component for salvation and eternal life, it is also clear from the reading of the Scriptures that God has worked in miraculous ways through the assembly of His people.
Perhaps an illustration may help make the point a little more clear. Imagine that you have a favorite recording artist and you have every album that group ever recorded. The sound is great, you can listen whenever you want and you have great equipment to hear the recordings. But then, something wonderful happens. You receive tickets to go see the artist in person, on stage, live! Do you think the concert performance is any different from those recordings you have been listening to? After all, the notes may be the same, the voices may be the same and almost everything else can be the same. But there is one remarkable difference – and that’s the crowd – the audience. Because we feed off the excitement of one another.
Just like the Super Bowl or any other major event. Sure, you can stay at home and watch it on television, or you can attend the live event. Why do those games sell out every year? The thrill of the audience – being on the scene to be immersed in the experience with others who are there for the same reason. There’s nothing like being together celebrating.
Well, that’s the point of church. The Bible is the same, God is the same, but the difference is that in church you are part of an assembly of believers who feed off the excitement of corporate worship together – and this isn’t a new concept. It occurred with the Jewish people and Moses; and it has occurred for 20 centuries within the New Testament church. God expects us to come together and immerse ourselves in the experience of worshipping Him together.
The verse for tonight reflects the idea of coming together for worship. Luke, the writer of Acts, tells us the story of the beginning of the church in Acts 2. Near the end of the chapter, we are told, in Acts 2:44 “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common…” See that? They were all together – and they shared and shared alike, all that they had.
My encouragement this evening is that God desires that you find and attend a Christ centered church. It’s important to the development and nurturing of your faith. My prayer is that you will experience God in new and exciting ways when you worship in a community of believers. Of course, keep reading the Bible and having your private devotions as well, but don’t forsake the the corporate component of worship. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…