When we strangers and aliens gather as brothers and sisters under the banner of the gospel, we are rehearsing that glorious day when we will know as we are known, when our sin is vanquished and our Christian fellowship is fully enjoyed. As such, going to church is perhaps the most heavenly thing you can do. Attending corporate worship can whet your appetite for the fulfillment that is coming soon.
There are a lot of good reasons to gather with your brothers and sisters in the sacred fellowship of worship each week. Even if you struggle with regular church attendance, you can probably think of all the primary reasons quite easily. Most importantly, God has commanded it (Heb. 10:24–25). If that were the only reason we had to attend corporate worship, it would be enough.
You can probably also easily see in the Scriptures how important it is to grow in your faith through participation in a local church. That is where Christians exercise their spiritual gifts in honor of God and in service to each other. We are saved as individuals, but we are not saved to an individualized faith. But there are still more reasons why attending corporate worship is important for every Christian, including some reasons not frequently discussed.
Here, then, are four important—yet underrated—reasons Christians ought to attend the Lord’s Day gathering.
AS AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO OTHERS
Your church attendance is an encouragement to others. This is especially true in smaller to medium-sized congregations, but it’s even true in very large local churches where you may be tempted to think your absence would go unnoticed. Presence is impressive. When the saints gather, there is something spiritually helpful about the physical proximity of the brethren and even about the relative fullness of the sanctuary.
Even if you make the mistake of not talking to anyone, even if you don’t think you’re getting much out of the church or they’re not getting much out of you, your actual presence communicates to those around you: “This is worth it. You, brothers and sisters, are worth it.” Having pastored a church, I can tell you that while I didn’t get to speak to every attendee every Sunday, I was encouraged when I saw people loyally showing up week after week. I’m willing to bet your presence encourages your pastors as well.
This is to say nothing of the immense help and encouragement you can be when you actually reach out with kind words or a helping hand to the brethren you see week after week.
AS AN ACT OF SELF-CRUCIFIXION
Your church attendance is a rebellion against your sense of self-sovereignty. Oh, I know that sometimes the sermon is a little (or a lot) longer than you’d like, the songs aren’t quite to your taste, the people are too shy to welcome you properly or so exuberantly friendly that you feel overwhelmed. I know sometimes there are a million things you’d do differently if you were in charge. So just think how sanctifying going to church must be!
The gathering of the diverse and divinely empowered saints is a community organized in part to stifle the selfish human desire for autonomy. In a world where we encounter so much that caters to our sense of self-sovereignty, going to church can be a way of taking up our cross—not our will be done, but the Father’s, not our interests be first, but our brothers’—and in that regard, it is extremely helpful to our growth in Christlikeness.
When we gather as brothers and sisters under the banner of the gospel, we are rehearsing that glorious day.
AS A WITNESS TO YOUR NEIGHBORS
One of the most countercultural things you can do is get up early on Sunday morning, put real clothes on, and drive to a church building. Church attendance is not a cultural expectation in the United States today. In many regions of the Western world, church attendance is downright abnormal.
And so on the Lord’s Day morning, while all the other yards in your neighborhood are buzzing with lawn mowers, all the other kids are making for the swimming pool, all the other patrons of the coffee shop are lounging in sweatpants, you show your family’s otherworldliness in that moment that you dedicate to the countercultural tradition of going to church.
It’s not that you’re better than everyone else. It’s because you realize you may in fact be worse. When you back the family car out of the driveway on Sunday morning, you are telling your neighbors that you need Jesus and no amount of Sunday leisure can satisfy you like Him, that no rest is better than that which is found in Jesus, and that when the thin veneer of worldly frivolities starts to show a few cracks, you might be the kind of person they could talk to about the “alternative lifestyle” of following Jesus.
AS A FORETASTE OF HEAVEN
In the New Testament Epistles, we see the difficulty and the division often involved when sinners gather together in following Jesus. Church is often messy. So what is it we’re getting out of this? In the book of Revelation, we get a glimpse of what God is doing with us motley sinners. He is hastening the day when His elect people from every tongue, tribe, race, and nation will gather despite their differences to celebrate their union with Christ and their unity in Christ. Going to church, then, is a foretaste of that day.
When we strangers and aliens gather as brothers and sisters under the banner of the gospel, we are rehearsing that glorious day when we will know as we are known, when our sin is vanquished and our Christian fellowship is fully enjoyed. As such, going to church is perhaps the most heavenly thing you can do. Attending corporate worship can whet your appetite for the fulfillment that is coming soon. If you find yourself excited about that day, you can find the motivation to look forward to Sunday as well.
Jared C. Wilson is director of content strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. This article is used with permission.