Recently many articles have been published about the importance of going to church on a regular basis. "Regular basis?," you might ask. "Once every six months is my kind of regular schedule!"
Most people today have no idea why the church exists. They know why we had churches in the “olden days”, but why does it need to exist today when we can have online Bibles, online sermons, online Bible studies, online conversations and online worship experiences. When asked why we should gather for church, some of us would stammer and simply say that it's commanded – "Don't give up gathering together as some are in the habit of doing" (Hebrews 10:25). Because we have to. Period.
It's nothing new that we are called to assemble as believers. The Israelites of the Old Testament engaged in corporate confession, repentance and praise, and the New Testament believers met together in homes, buildings and synagogues.
Oftentimes we forget that even in this age, collectively and in community we are on a mission to know God and make Him known. Instead we define the church according to our own preferences and levels of comfort – if it makes me feel good then it is a good fit, or if it fits into my online-loving way of life, then it is good for me.
Even without the Internet, the idea of believers living independently of the church is totally foreign to the New Testament. Almost every epistle is addressed to a local church, and other books like 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon were addressed to key leaders in the church. Even James—which was written to believers scattered by persecution—assumes the recipients are still meeting together and deals with life in the context of the church. Throughout the New Testament the assumption is always the same: that the people of God are faithfully gathering together in a local assembly where the Word of God is being spread.
I love the online world as much as anyone, but I cannot stress enough the importance of getting engaged in the local church. When we come together we experience Jesus in ways that cannot be duplicated in an online service. In the local church we:
- Learn the foundational truth of the Word of God
- Establish relationships that sharpen our faith
- Learn how to submit to biblical authority
- Have our faith matured
- Witness the power of God
- Witness answered prayer
- Discover our gifts and talents (passions) and use them to serve the church for the glory of God.
- Learn the power of forgiveness when we forgive and are forgiven
We read in 2 Corinthians that, “[God] uses [the church] to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume“ (2 Corinthians 2:14b–16).
I fully realize that online sermons are beneficial to those who, because of illness or strength, are not able to attend church. In fact, we’re looking forward to doing some Facebook Live services out of Calvary Burlington in the near future. But I also know that Christ-followers are called to live and serve in community, to the glory of Christ who loved the church and gave Himself up for the church.
So, please don't give up meeting together! Not only because it's commanded, but because we need each other! I need to learn from you what God has done in your life, and you need to learn from me how God has met my need in times of fear and doubt. We need to learn from others what it means to praise God in the storm, and they need to learn from us what biblical community looks like in 2017.
See you at church...
Candi Thorpe, Director of Administration and Communication