Does a person have to attend church?


Does a person have to attend church in order to be accepted into the kingdom of God? This question isn't sarcastically phrased; I really want to know the answer. And please note that I do attend church. But seeing that I can pray, talk to God, read His word and also worship him in songs at home do I need to go?


There are several forms of worship that you can offer to God on your own, but there are some which you cannot. Let's start with the most obvious one: partaking of the Lord's Supper. Paul scolds the Corinthians in I Corinthians 11:17-34 for misusing the time they gathered together. "Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper" (I Corinthians 11:20). If you read through the entire section, note how many times Paul mentions that this was a time for Christians to come together as a church. The partaking of the Lord's Supper is consistently portrayed as an act shared by all Christians in a church. The meal has its roots in the covenant meals mentioned in the Old Testament. It is a time for all who are under the same covenant to gather and remind themselves of the obligations they have placed themselves under and to share the common bond between them. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread" (I Corinthians 10:16-17). That term we sometimes use for the Lord's Supper, "communion," means a sharing or a fellowship. You cannot share by yourself.

We also note that the first disciples "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). They were devoted to fellowship. Christianity is a religion shared with common believers. It is not an individualistic religion. In part, it is our time together that gives us the opportunity to encourage each other. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:23-25). You cannot stir up your fellow Christians if you are never with them. This is why we have been commanded to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

The church is an entity given a mission to do. "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13). Where would be the body of Christ if no one joined themselves to a local church? How could there be teachers if there were no students? How could elders oversee the souls of members if there were no members?

There will be periods of time, such as when you are moving from one location to another when you won't be a member of a congregation, but these times are the exceptions and not the rule. We find in the New Testament that at first opportunity Christians sought to join with other Christians in serving God. When Saul, who later became known as Paul, journeyed to Jerusalem, "he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out" (Acts 9:26-28). The church in Jerusalem made a mistake in holding off Saul, but Barnabas helped to straighten out the situation. Still notice that Paul didn't wait after arrival to join with his brethren and that the brethren, right or wrong, controlled who they accepted as members. Being joined with God's people in a congregation was and remains important.

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