We live in an age when, increasingly, people are asking the question, “Do we need to gather on Sunday mornings for worship anymore?” It’s a valid question. After all, isn’t there a plethora of good sermon content online? Aren’t there churches that actually offer online services? And isn’t it possible to read your Bible, pray, and perhaps listen/watch/read a sermon at home?
The truth is that you can experience some of what you get at church at home. You’ll likely find a better message by listening to one of the popular preachers. You’ll might carve out more time to pray by staying at home. And you can even roll up your sleeves and get involved in works of service in your local community rather than going to church. You can even worship and sing in your shower.
Yes, to all of those. This kind of attitude really misses the point when it comes to church. At church we hear a message preached from a pastor, as well as pray, sing and serve. This is not all church is about. There is more than simply what we “get out” of a Sunday morning.
I call it body life. Some call it community. Regardless, you cannot replace that at home. You cannot get that at a conference. You cannot get that online. The truth is that God has wired us, created us, for community. When God ordained the Church, calling out a special people for His name, you will notice that God didn’t call a “person”, but called a “people.” Our American Western individualism causes us to skip right over the plural aspect of the Christian faith.
In the Old Testament, God called out a people. In the New Testament, God called out a people. Read the Psalms, notice how often worship is spoken of us in a corporate context. Notice how often you find third person plural pronouns. It’s the same in the New Testament. The commands, the calls to worship, the theology. It was delivered to a people, not to a person.
Why is this? We grow best in community. When God’s people are gathered from every nation, tribe and tongue, when people of diverse social standing and race and financial status are put together by the Holy Spirit, something wonderful and powerful happens. We change. We learn from each other. We become family.
This is why it is so important to not simply be a token participant in your local church, but a full-on, all-in member. That means you attend as often as you physically can. That means you go to most of the events. Even the potlucks and the seemingly non-essential things. Why? Because you’re part of a local body, part of a family. We are all sacrificing time, energy, passion, and the best of our lives for Christ. And, here’s the big one, when God’s people gather corporately every week to bow their heads and lift up their hands in worship, it says something. It’s a powerful statement about who God is and who we are. It sends a loud message to our part of the world. Yes, there is a God and yes we consider Him transcendent and holy and worthy of our deepest adoration.
We miss something when we check in on Sunday and then check out right after the service. We miss when we stay home and watch it online. We miss something when do a lot of Christian, churchy type stuff, but don’t actually attend church on Sunday. We miss the life of the body of Christ.
Church isn’t simply for self-improvement (I got nothing out of the message last week. I wish the music wasn’t so loud. Did you see that kid in the third row who was making all that noise?). Church isn’t just so I can change and be better at my job and my marriage and my golf game. It’s body life. And if you’re not all in, my friend, you’re missing out.
Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). Dan is the author of several books, including Teen People of the Bible, Crash Course, iFaith, Real, Activist Faith, and his latest, The Original Jesus. Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College and has studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Angela have four children and reside in the Nashville area. They attend Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, where Dan serves as Pastor of Teaching and Discipleship.