Why do I need to go to church?
It is the question of many Christians: why do I need to go to a church every Sunday? Isn’t it enough to just have a cup of coffee with my brother? What about my daily devotions — isn’t that enough? I mean, the point is to have a relationship with Jesus, right?
This question has been posed to me on numerous occasions, and it seems that Christians nowadays are asking this question more and more — why a local church? The ultimate answer to this question is very simply: If you are a Christian, you need the church. But the answer is worked out in a few different ways. Here are 3 main reasons that you need the church.
The Church is the Body of Christ:
First and foremost, Christians need the church because the church collectively is the body of Christ. When Christ knocked Paul down off of his donkey, and rebuked him for his persecution of the church, he didn’t ask, “Why are you persecuting these good-intentioned Christians, Paul?”. No, Jesus asked Paul, “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4-6).
What does this indicate? While the implications of Christ’s question could be endless, it does mean one thing: if you claim Jesus, then you claim his people. You cannot separate Christ from his people. When you mess with the church, you mess with Jesus. When you mess with Jesus, you mess with his people. Consequently, if you feel a little apathetic about the church, well, it reveals your apathy toward Christ. Paul says in Ephesians 2 that Christ has created in himself one new man (Eph 2:13-16). If you come to Christ, this also means that you have come to a group of believers that have also come to Christ. All believers are joined together as a family because they are all joined to Christ. When someone refuses to congregate with believers, to identify themselves with other believers, it reveals their heart toward Jesus. We need the church because we are all joined together in Christ. We are a family.
And yes, I know, the church is a messy place. No arguments there. This is in large part why Paul writes and exhorts believers to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph 4:31-32). Paul was the first guy to understand the messy nature of the church (read 1 Corinthians!), but he also knew that Christians are uniquely and eternally knit to one another in Christ. Because of this, we are a family, and families love each other. So, if you are a Christian, you are called to a local body of believers. Christ and his church simply cannot be separated.
No man is an island:
It is true that you can have an intimate relationship with Christ through prayer and the word; but the Bible says that it is not enough to have your own individual relationship with Christ. And why? Because, no one person has enough resources in himself to maintain a fully vibrant relationship with Christ. Paul says in Ephesians 4:7 that each of us has been given a measure of grace in the Spirit to serve Christ and his kingdom — but notice, Paul only says that we have a measure. Paul finishes this section in Ephesians 4:11-14, saying that our goal as Christians however is to grow “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”.
How can we grow to the fullest measure if we only have a part of the measure? Well, Paul assumes that we have each other. Paul says in Ephesians 4:11 that Christ gave different gifts to each of us that we might benefit each other. And the point of this passage is that we need each other to grow into full maturity, and into the stature that is Christ. We cannot become more like Jesus without other Christians. We all have different giftings from the Spirit, different personalities and perspectives, and all for the benefit of one another.
But if you are not using your gifts in the larger context of a local church with other believers, Ephesians 4 will not become a reality for you. You will not be able to use and grow in your own gifting — but also, you will not be sufficiently served by others. Without a context in which you can give of yourself to others, and others can give themselves to you, you cannot grow “to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13).
You will always be a one-dimensional Christian, having only your own perspective on things. But we need to be challenged, pushed, helped, graced, and loved. We need others to use their gifts on us that we might gain more perspective, insight, and maturity in the Spirit of Christ to grow into the fulness of Christ. This doesn’t happen in any other place but the local church.
It is a matter of obedience:
This last point is very important. We go, serve in, and love the church because Jesus and the Bible tell us to. Jesus himself instituted the church, telling Peter that the gates of hell will never overcome it (Mt 16:17-19). More than that, Jesus gave the church the task of bringing the gospel to the nations (Mt 28:18-20). This means that if you are a Christian, this is your calling — it is a matter of obedience to fulfill this great commission. And this great commission only happens through the local church.
But not only this, Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us . . . commands us, “and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near”. Apparently it was a trend then, and it’s one now, to skip church. But the author of Hebrews says that this habit is dangerous.
The scriptures command us to meet with a local body of believers, and to encourage and serve one another, seeking to stir one another on to love and good deeds. If we as believers aren’t doing this, we are simply being disobedient to the scripture’s admonition.
Beyond the obvious disadvantages of living the Christian life alone, above all, we should see that attendance to a local church is what Christ wants for us, and it is the means by which he accomplishes his mission through us.
So, Christian, as the Day of our Lord draws near, draw near to other believers. Don’t overlook the importance and purpose of the local church. It will not only benefit you personally, but is the means by which God accomplishes his purposes here on earth.