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Go to Church!

Updated: Oct 18


Photo by Lauren Louks, Elle L Photography

The Christian Post reported recent survey results showing "40% of Generation Z adults ages 18 and over attend church 'primarily online.' They were followed closely by 36% of churchgoers ages 77 and up. [A]mong Gen Z and Millennials who have made a meaningful commitment to Jesus, about 66% do not attend church either in person or online at least once a month."


A meaningful commitment to God will be accompanied by a real conviction to gather with other believers. What we do with this conviction - obey, avoid, or make excuses - is our choice. Although attending church is not the be-all-end-all of serving the Lord, it is a sign of the new covenant we are to continually practice until Christ returns.


YOU KNOW THAT VERSE

"And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."

-Hebrews 10:25, NLT


I lost count long ago of how many Christians have quoted this verse to me. I've read all of Hebrews 10 multiple times and the context doesn't support celebrating or lecturing believers. I'm an avid churchgoer. I can count how many services I miss in a given year. Yet, I've matured beyond thinking that my participation somehow makes me special. Consider attending church like a child who grows into an adolescent and eventually does homework and chores without being told. Once positive behavior reinforcements are no longer needed, wise parents will stop giving kudos for what's minimally required.


Every Christian should prioritize the gathering as it is an expectation and essential act of service under the new covenant (so is tithing...but that's a different blog). However, going to church is no substitute for personal times of prayer, fasting, reading, and repentance. God intended the local church to serve as a foundation for spiritual training (discipleship) via love, acceptance, accountability, and discipline (Eph. 4:11-15). Isolating Hebrews 10:25 - and teaching it as the "11th Commandment" - is counterproductive. Also, conditioning people to show up for "fun and fellowship" will never produce the kind of conviction that leads to a lifelong commitment.


Think of all the parents and grandparents who "raised their kids in church," yet these are living apart from God today. I know there are numerous reasons for this contradiction. But I'm suggesting it is the multi-service model (one fast song, two slow songs, a 28-minute sermon, an invitation to say a "simple prayer") that creates false converts and eventually leaves families devastated. Nice, convenient services may check off a religious box, but they don't challenge us to go above what's minimally required. The young and the unbeliever are not interested in joining an easygoing, spiritually lazy, nonprofit organization - this is "church," according to the American Christian standard.


BOWING TO KING COVID

The Christian Post published data from another survey revealing "most Evangelical Christians in the United States believe worshiping alone or only with one's family can be a valid substitute for going to church, a possible effect of widespread closures during the COVID-19 pandemic."

Photo Source: PewResearch.org

Lifeway Research executive director Scott McConnell told Christian Post, "'Religious identity, beliefs and behavior are interrelated. When in-person church attendance [was] interrupted and habits were broken, it affected some Americans' beliefs about the need to gather with other believers to worship.'"


Was covid serious? Yes. Is there a cure? There's no cure for ANY virus. Will there be viruses in the future? Yes. Pandemics? Pray against it! Does God overlook a decision to never return to church? No. Without going too deep here, I'll simply say, fear is a liar and serving God alone is not biblical. If you're not submitted to local leadership, or you're attending virtually full-time, then your form of Christianity falls short of scriptural standards. If, after two years, your pastor hasn't reopened the sanctuary, or provided an alternative meeting place - find another church. Let's be real: if covid-19 did not permanently interrupt grocery shopping, eating in restaurants, going to ball games, or flying on airplanes, then settling for church online is unacceptable.


"If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small."

-Proverbs 24:10, NKJV


FOR CLARIFICATION

Only in America will someone identify as a Christian without attending church, fasting, or reading the Bible. I say only in America because this is the only place I've practiced Christianity. This is the only nation I know where people enjoy the privilege of a free society and keep Jesus at a comfortable distance while claiming promises in His name. In other parts of the world, associating with Christ is an automatic death sentence - no phone call, no lawyer, no trial. I'm not speaking condemnation, rather, I aim to provoke this generation to a righteous response. We must align with Scripture as it is written and forsake living according to our interpretations and preferences. Jesus died for us, the least we can do is show up in the Father's house.


Participating in services is not about attending or belonging, it's about becoming. Born again believers are the temple in which His presence dwells, we are living sacrifices made holy by His blood (Eph. 2:20-23; Rom. 12:1). Can we not see how the new covenant gathering actually supersedes the old covenant of bringing animal sacrifices to the Temple!? Furthermore, "Church" in Greek (ekklesia) is plural. We're a church when we're together; we can't be a body by ourselves (1 Cor. 12:14). If we're conscious, physically able, and otherwise in good health, we should be found faithful in the house of God. Arriving in the appointed place, at the appointed time, sends a message to the Lord that says,


"As I am with You, so I am with Your people. Although Your divine plans include me, it's not about me."

 

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