This seems to be the growing concern of many Christians, especially in these latterdays. Several have addressed this issue with me, and I often see it mentioned in the writings of others.
First of all, we who know Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord are the Church. 1 Corinthians 12 is clear that each true Christian is part of the body of Christ and is therefore part of the Church. So wherever we go, the Church goes.
With that understood, I realize that Christians are actually referring to the meeting place, which is usually called “the church.” We have even grown accustomed over the years of equating the meeting place, more specifically the building, as “the church.”
Now we understand that when folks say, “I can’t find a church,” they’re referring to a local group of Christians meeting at a designated place called “the church.”
In the first century Christians usually met in someone’s home or even in a field. There were no white wood frame or brick churches with steeples and church bells at that time. The important thing wasn’t where they met, but that they met.
I think we need to answer two questions:
1. Is not attending church a sin?
2. Is it really necessary that I attend a church?
Is Not Attending Church A Sin?
The Lord says through the writer of Hebrews, and then Matthew and Paul:
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
The Church should meet together. This can be accomplished in small groups such as a home church or home Bible study, or large groups. I personally feel that small groups are more desirable. Obviously, “two or three gathered together” is acceptable to Jesus. Because of the decay of organized churches, this has become very popular today.
“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5)
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:” (Colossians 2:16)
No Christian, convinced in their own mind, should be judged by others if they choose to not attend the organized church on the corner, but instead worship in their own home or the home of a friend or family member.
So to answer question number one, it is not a sin to not attend the local organized church, but instead worship in a small group in a private home or elsewhere.
Is It Really Necessary That I Attend A Church?
At this point, we need to ask another question, and that is, “Why should the Church meet at all?” In other words, “Is there any benefit in the Church meeting together?”
There are four main benefits that come to mind. They are:
1. Supporting one another in fellowship (can only be done in a group)
2. Worshipping the Lord (can be done privately and as a group)
3. Studying God’s Word, the Bible (can be done privately and as a group)
4. Spending time in prayer (can be done privately and as a group)
Whether this is being done in the local organized church on the corner or in a private home with only two or three people, both are “having church.” Both are acceptable to the Lord.
All or any of these four criteria could be abused, regardless of the size of the group. What we should be concerned about is that at the end of the meeting, who stood out at the meeting? Did Jesus stand out, or did people stand out? Did the Holy Spirit guide the meeting, or was it controlled by man? Who received the glory? Did I learn anything that God wants me to know?
Before I go any farther, I do want to be clear about one thing. There are no perfect churches. There is only one way a church could be perfect, and that is if the group consisted of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit and those saints currently in Heaven who have gone on before us. So let us always keep in mind, all of Christ’s local churches on earth are composed of saved sinners who still reside in human flesh and are not perfect.
Be honest, sometimes we’re looking for the ‘perfect’ church and this is why we “can’t find a church.” In this case, maybe we should actually ask, “Am I the problem?” Ouch! Sorry, but that has to be considered. If this isn’t the case, we should ask, “What should I look for?
There are many things I look for in a church, whether we’re talking about a congregation of two or three, or hundreds. I will list some things I deem as important, as they come to mind. They are in no special order, and this is not an exhaustive list. First of all, what is being taught? The Bible says:
· God is recognized as a trinity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
· Salvation is by God’s grace alone, not by works.
· Human works can never satisfy the penalty for sin.
· Salvation produces works (the Holy Spirit working through us), but our works (or deeds) can never save us.
· Jesus was born of Mary, who was a virgin; i.e. a virgin birth.
· Jesus was totally sinless in His life on earth.
· Jesus was truly God, and truly man while upon earth.
· Jesus died on the cross and rose the 3rd day.
· Jesus will return for His bride at the Rapture, prior to the Tribulation.
· Jesus will judge the world in the Tribulation and draw Israel back to Him.
· The Church has not, cannot and does not replace Israel.
· All mankind is born under sin.
· Jesus is the only way to the Father (to be saved). There is no other way.
· Heaven and hell are real.
· The Bible is the inerrant Word of God - without error in the original languages.
· All future prophecies will come to pass just as accurately as all past prophecies have come to pass; i.e. 100%.
· God is the sole creator of the world.
Besides what is being taught, I consider what is taking place. Again, in no particular order, and it is not an exhaustive list.
· Are people growing?
· Is prophecy (25-33% of the Bible) being omitted?
· Is God’s Word, the Bible, actually being taught?
· Is the focus on entertainment or Christ?
· Are the old hymns from actual song books being used for congregational singing? (My own personal preference.)
· Could I get trampled if I’m too close to the door at noon on Sunday morning?
· Am I entertained for 45 minutes and then get a 15 minute sermonette?
· Are prayers for show, or do they have feet on them?
· Is the place where the Church comes together shown respect as a place of worship?
Listen carefully; these are some things that are important to me. The question is, “What is important to you?” The greater question is, “What is important to Jesus for you?”
The best advice I can think of to help Christians who face this problem is:
1. Pray about it.
2. Blow the dust off your Bible, and really get serious about studying it. Why?
a. So you will know the Truth, and by knowing the Truth, you will recognize what is false.
b. So God can speak to you and guide you.
I have found that even though most people mean well, my best advice comes from the Lord Himself, but I can’t really know what he wants, if I don’t talk to Him in prayer and listen to Him through His Word, the Bible. Communication. That’s the answer. Communication, between God and us. He’ll lead us where He wants us to be.
When Paul and Silas left Thessalonica and went to Berea, their message was eagerly received, but notice carefully that the Bereans were not gullible. They “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11 NIV)
Visit the church you have in mind, and do as the Bereans. If what they say is true, maybe that is where the Lord wants you to be. If what they say is not true, after daily examining the Scriptures, flee.
The number one reason there are so many Christians being duped by charlatans in church meetings is ignorance. If they would just seriously study the Bible for themselves, as the Bereans did, many eyes would be opened. Then they could recognize the garbage that is being shoveled at them.
One final thought concerning shut-ins; it is totally understood that you physically cannot leave your area. Worship the Lord our God wherever you are, and He will be there with you, even if you are alone.
To all Christians, whether you attend a very large organized church or a very small home church is a personal preference. The important thing is, “How do ‘what is taught’ and ‘the actions of the group’ measure up with the Scriptures?”
Pre-Rapture Commentary: http://grant-phillips.blogspot.com
Rapture Ready: http://www.raptureready.com/featured/phillips/phillips.html