These are some quick thoughts related to opposition that I encounter from time to time at the notion of going to church. Nothing highlighted that more than Kevin DeYoung’s post The Scandal of the Semi-Churched, in which he argued for the importance of regular gathering based on Heb. 10:25. Now of course the idea that God’s people should participate in weekly worship gatherings does not solely rest on this one verse. The breadth of Scripture illustrates that his elect engage in corporate worship, both in the OT and NT. This is not just people getting together and doing whatever, but organized in a way to honor the Lord and remind his people of who they are. This includes the presence of leadership, teaching, exhortation, prayer and sacraments. Scripture is too rich with this concept to ignore it.
It is not offensive to suggest that Christians should participate in weekly gatherings and yet sometimes that is the response. To be honest, I’m actually amazed when I hear Christians spit on this idea considering that being a Christian means you are automatically part of the body of Christ. Now in some cases, the opposition is to a particular church structure. Even then we should be cautious. If you disagree with a particular ecclesiology at least commend the ones who take it seriously. Don’t spit on them just because you disagree with the structure. It does not make sense for us to be called the body of Christ if that is not represented in some fashion as a corporate entity. And by corporate, I don’t mean 501c3 structure but a visible representation of our identity in Christ.
Now I get that many people have been abused by churches and her leaders. I get angry myself at the self-serving platforms that many who call themselves pastors have created. In contemporary evangelicalism, we have a problem with pragmatically oriented structures that result in individual needs dispensing rather than securing our corporate identity. I sympathize with the ones who have found churches to be a lonely and isolating experience, as I wrote here Church of the Lonely Place. I realize that Christians may go through a time of a nomadic existence to find a good body within which to land. There is fear and caution and concern and a whole range of human emotions associated with dealing with unsettling situations, especially when there are triggers from past hurt. But I don’t think the suggestion of weekly attendance should garner opposition.
Many times we get hung up on terminology. Saying “I go to church” can get equated with “I go to a building” and the opposition resides there. But making it about going to a building misses the point. I go to church because it is the place of gathering of God’s people as the visible representation of Christ. I go to church because I need the means of grace that it provides to feed my faith. I go to church because, just like those mentioned in Acts 2, I need to sit under the apostolic teaching (Bible preaching) and prayer and fellowship and the breaking of bread with other believers. This is the heart of discipleship. This is what grows faith so that we mature in Christ and act more like a body should (Eph. 4:11-16). I need to be reminded that it isn’t about me but Christ and his people and our impact on the world. It is both an act of submission and of worship. For a Christian to hate this concept is a problem.
I could write much on the nature and purpose of the church, church government and defend the various elements that should make-up corporate worship, citing a wealth of scriptural support. But its not that kind of post (plus I’m finishing up the last assignments for the semester). Rather I’m addressing an attitude about church attendance. I don’t write this to condemn anyone but simply raise concerns related to opposition. If we belong to Christ that necessarily means being a part of his body. When we hate to go to a place that is designed to enforced this identity, we have to wonder what that is about.