Regular in-person church attendance is critical for your faith

Regular in-person church attendance is critical for your faith

Going to a church service every week is something that most Christians have historically done at a bare minimum. (There have been times when two services on Sunday, or even daily services at dawn, were the norm!) Yet the pattern for many Christians in our current age is to go to church much less regularly than that. It is common for even long-term Christians to go to church fortnightly, monthly, or whenever there isn’t a better offer going.

Our recent experience with COVID has exacerbated this trend. I have heard from many other churches that a significant proportion of their members are continuing to watch the weekly church service on livestream rather than coming in person. In my church (which chose not to continue offering live steaming), there has been a noticeable increase in people who come regularly but not every week. In-person church attendance has, for many Christians, become something that fits around the edges of other things that we want to do.

Now, there are many places in the Bible where regular meeting together as believers is expressly encouraged. It was the pattern of the early church to meet together, sometimes every day (Acts 2:46) and sometimes every week (Acts 20:7). Christian gathering for worship was regulated as it was assumed to be a significant part of the life of the community (1 Corinthians 14). And, of course, we have that famous warning in Hebrews 10:

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 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. (Heb. 10:24-25 ESV)

So why are so many Christians not putting a high value on weekly worship with their brothers and sisters in Christ? I have heard people say that they don’t want to be legalistic. We are saved by grace, not by religion, and surely we are still real Christians if we don’t go to church every week. And sure, I see the logic of that argument. But do you see the problem with it? Anyone who reasons like that is using grace as an excuse not to take part in worship. We can see church attendance legalistically, of course. But we don’t come to church to get our attendance recorded by God so we get into heaven; we come to church services to worship God and encourage one another. It is only something we want to do. It is something we have the privilege of doing. Using our fear of legalism as a reason not to do this seems like using grace as a cover-up for evil as we are warned against in 1 Peter 2:16.

Not regularly participating in worship gatherings in person also reveals something about our hearts: we can easily start to think that worship is all about us. As long as I get the sermon I want, well that is fine. But it misses the point that church is communal and involves other people. We are called to use our gifts to build them up, which we avoid doing if we are only live-streaming it in our living rooms. If we only come to church when it is convenient for us, we are depriving others in church of our gifts and we are missing out on receiving the impact of their gifts as well. Church becomes something selfish, not something to do with service.

But perhaps most of our sliding away from going to church services each week is not a well-thought-out theological issue; it is more of a priorities issue. After COVID, many don’t go out much for anything in their free time. Church takes effort to get to. You need to dress, travel, and park. And life is so full and busy with more chores to do, work to get finished, and we deserve time to relax as well. Church becomes another chore and not a joy. If we don’t prioritise it, it is so easy to slip out of the habit of going. And the less you go, the less you tend to go.

If you know that your pattern of church attendance is sketchy in recent times, decide now to come every week to your local church. Clear your calendar. Put it in stone, that unless you are away or sick, you will be there. Why does this matter so much? It is a concrete way of showing your commitment to the people in your spiritual family, and it shows that honouring God comes first among your many other priorities. It gives you consistency of Biblical input and the best opportunity to learn from God’s word. Regular church attendance leads to stronger relationships with those in the church. And if you have children, attending the same church each week sends a message that God and His people are of first priority to your family. This is a message that is not only taught in words but shown in action.

Got to your local church every week. It is a commitment that reveals your heart, gives you the opportunity to serve, and helps you grow in your faith.