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Is church attendance optional?

Word from Wade

I would assume that most folks reading this column are professing Christians. If you are not then please forgive me, but feel free to read on. I think this is an important question to address as church attendance is declining in many places, even with folks who would consider themselves “Christian.”

According to the Barna Research Group, there is a growing segment of our population who “love Jesus but not the church.” They believe in Christ but have lost faith in the church. In some cases, people have been wounded by a bad church experience. But statistics indicate this is not the primary cause. More often these folks don’t attend church claiming that they can find God elsewhere or that the church is not personally relevant to them. Indeed many people have told me they feel closer to God out in a fishing boat or a deer stand than in church.

Even many “regular” church attenders don’t show up every week for services as in past generations.

Let me say first of all that going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than walking in a barn makes you a horse. A Christian is someone who has had a life changing personal experience with Jesus Christ. They have repented not only of their sins but also their own self effort to get to heaven on their own merits. They have decided to follow Christ and live for Him. They are not perfect, but forgiven.

And what do we mean by “church?” It is not a building – that’s just where Christians meet. The church is a living organism – Christians who connect to worship, pray, study, encourage, and serve – whether they meet in a church building, house or even a barn. In spite of its flaws, Jesus loves the church and laid down His life for it.

Hebrews 10:25 tells us to not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing. It says that we should encourage one another and meet together all the more as we see the Day (of Christ’s coming) approaching.

Why does God tell us this? Because logs on a fire need each other to burn. Pull one off by itself and the fire quickly goes out. We are no different. The preceding verse tells us that we are to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” We meet together to encourage and help one another – kind of like athletes who work out together and encourage one another with “you can do it!” or “one more rep!” or maybe “try this technique – it has helped me improve stamina.”

Another thing I love about the church is that it provides a platform or vehicle for service to others that I would not have on my own. Often I want to help others in need but don’t know how or where to go, and my little contribution doesn’t seem to amount to much. But all together we can make a difference.

Some folks criticize “organized religion” for all the different denominations and churches we have today. But with the variety of churches and worship styles we have even in our county, surely there is one out there that you would feel comfortable in! We are all different and that’s OK.

David wrote in Psalm 122, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the House of the Lord.’” I pray that you will experience that same kind of excitement in regularly connecting with the family of God in worship and Christ centered fellowship!