By Tyson Thorne

December 10, 2022

GMM Large

During the Covid-19 “crises” Christians became used to attending church online. In fact, one good thing to come out of the pandemic is that many churches upgraded their technology. Live streaming is now more common, and even small churches are finding that streaming live on Facebook is an affordable option. This is good news for elderly and disabled believers as well as “seekers” (those who are non-religious but interested in learning more about Christianity). That said, attending church virtually isn’t healthy for those who can attend in person. It’s time to go back to church. Here’s why.

  1. We are told to not forsake gathering together.
  2. Fellowship is required for spiritual growth.
  3. God gives us spiritual gifts, and those gifts are to be used in service to others in the church.
  4. One cannot partake of the sacraments (baptism and communion) virtually.
  5. Attendance is a simple form of evangelism by example.

The author of the book of Hebrews tells us in chapter ten (verses 24 and 25): “And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.” Why is it so important that we not abandon meeting in person? Paul answers the question in Ephesians 2.19-22, because we (people) are the church:

“So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

This passage is important for a couple reasons. First, it indicates that the church is not a building, a home or a live stream. In Romans Paul asks that the carrier of his letter greet the church that meets at Pricilla’s house (Romans 16.13) – the house is unimportant but the people are not. This passage also leads us to the second reason church attendance is important, by encouraging one another we are being built together into the temple – that is the church – which is where God dwells. Spiritual growth can only go so far without fellowship; spiritual growth requires meeting together.

Romans 12.3-.8 reveals that God gives each believer at least one spiritual gift, and that the purpose of that gift is to serve the body of Christ:

For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function... And we have different gifts according to the grace given to us. If the gift is prophecy, that individual must use it in proportion to his faith. If it is service, he must serve; if it is teaching, he must teach; if it is exhortation, he must exhort; if it is contributing, he must do so with sincerity; if it is leadership, he must do so with diligence; if it is showing mercy, he must do so with cheerfulness.

I know the subject of spiritual gifts is not emphasized in the evangelical churches, but it should be. Not the way that some denominations do, with flash and much ado. Spiritual gifts are not about performing for others, but serving others; not to promote ourselves but the love of Christ Jesus.

The fourth point is relatively obvious, we cannot be baptized or celebrate communion in private. Even if you have been baptized already, it is now part of your responsibility to witness the baptism of others. For some, this seams boring, but only to those who don’t understand what baptism is about. Commanded by Jesus himself (Matthew 28.19) it is one of only two sacraments the early church recognized. Most of Christendom believes baptism is a symbolic event of the follower’s spiritual death, burial and resurrection, and the washing away of sin. It is a public testimony of one’s faith in Jesus, and it can’t be public if there is no one there to witness. This is an occasion to be celebrated, not avoided. The other sacrament, also instituted by our savior (Matthew 26.26-30), is communion which is to be celebrated by believers (1 Corinthians 11.23-.28) in fellowship together.

Finally, your attendance is a non-verbal witness to others. Before the days of smartphones, people would carry their Bibles with them to church, adding to the testimony of who they are and what they believe. Even so, it is still meaningful to neighbors to see you leave every Sunday morning. I’m not one who believes that the gospel can be communicated through actions or lifestyle alone, but I do believe that if our actions and lifestyle do not reflect the gospel then our words are mostly meaningless. The gospel must be told (Romans 10.14), but it is most efficacious if the one telling is not a hypocrite.

I understand that attending online is convenient, especially for the elderly and those with small children, but Christianity is not intended to be convenient or safe -- it is intended to be lived. Attend for all these reasons: out of obedience, for fellowship, for service, to partake in the sacraments, and for your witness.

If you are in a position where you are physically able to attend, you ought to do so.

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