Church attendance is on the decrease. The online church service, where it is possible to listen to your favourite preacher anywhere, anytime, is conveniently available twenty four/seven.
I grew up in an era where shops, cinemas and organised sporting events were not open on Sundays and church was one of the few options available for social gatherings and worship of God. But today it is different. Churches are competing with a multiplicity of Sunday activities and it is even possible to suggest that today the regional shopping centre more resembles the cultural hub of many communities. So why go to church? And it doesn’t necessarily have to be on a Sunday. The answer in summary I suggest has to do with our identity, who we are, and the following evidences of our identity affirm that we still need to be the church gathered as well as the church scattered in any one week.
We go to church because:
- we are members of GOD’S FAMILY with God being our heavenly Father (Ephesians 3:19). Therefore, coming together regularly is a FAMILY REUNION where all the family gathers, as brothers and sisters in a spirit of united expectation.
- we are members of the BODY OF JESUS CHRIST and each one is part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27). “From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as EACH PART DOES IT’S WORK” (Ephesians 4:16). Therefore coming together regularly gives us the opportunity to assemble as the COMPLETE BODY OF CHRIST. It could be said that if people want to see the living body of Jesus in their community today, then all they need to do is to come to church to observe people serving one another with the spiritual gifts they have been given and to fulfil the many ONE ANOTHERS (over20 are listed in the Bible) that we are commanded to live out. When people are absent, it is as if certain members or parts of the body are missing and the body is incomplete.
- we are LIVING STONES being built into a SPIRITUAL HOUSE to be a HOLY PRIESTHOOD, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-5). Therefore coming together regularly gives opportunity for the living stones to join together as a SPIRITUAL HOUSE to offer ourselves as living and spiritual sacrifices in His service.
- we are the BRIDE OF CHRIST (2 Corinthians 11:2). Therefore we come together as one complete BRIDE to be with our BRIDEGROOM who loves us greatly and gave Himself for us. For us going to church becomes a time of celebration and joy, just as it would be if we were attending a wedding.
- we are GOD’S TEMPLE and God’s Spirit lives in us. “Don’t you know that you yourselves (pl) are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Therefore, as we regularly come together we collectively form the living TEMPLE OF GOD which is indwelt by His Spirit.
- we are fellow SOLDIERS IN GOD’S ARMY (Philippians 2:25, Philemon1:2). Therefore as we regularly come together, we come to worship our COMMANDING OFFICER declaring the victory that He has achieved for us over our enemy. We are ON PARADE standing shoulder to shoulder with no one daring to be absent without leave.
It is only in our collective coming together that we form the visible FAMILY OF GOD, THE BODY OF CHRIST, THE SPIRITUAL HOUSE, THE BRIDE OF CHRIST, GOD’S TEMPLE and GOD’S ARMY. Coming together regularly reminds us of these truths and gives expression and a visibility to our identity.
Jesus loved the church and gave Himself up for the church and we are to do the same. We are not a collection of individuals, rather we are one family, one body, one spiritual house, one bride, one temple and one army. We are the church gathered and for the rest of the week we are the church scattered, but we are the church twenty four/seven.
So, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. LET US NOT GIVE UP MEETING TOGETHER as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)