There are professing Christians who do not go to church. There are people sitting in churches who may not be Christians. People who attend church regularly do so for a large variety of reasons, some good and some not. Then there are two extremes: people who answer the call of God upon their lives but may not be a part of a local congregation, and those who are so bound by a local church that they do not feel the freedom to pursue what God designed them to do without consulting the leadership of their particular church.
Let's examine the role of the local church. The Church (big "C") Universal was established by Christ when He was on earth to proclaim the Gospel news of salvation. Each individual member of the Church is indwelt with the Holy Spirit to proclaim this good news, and to live a life in power and victory. In addition, each person who is a genuine Christian is given spiritual gifts to use for the building up of the body of Christ and to fulfill the Great Commission.
The Bible also tells us to not "forsake the assembling of ourselves together." (Hebrews 10:25) There are many accounts given in the New Testament when Christians gathered together for worship, prayer, and to hear messages. Many times they met in buildings or people's homes, though that is not a necessary requirement, and sometimes they gathered outside. This is all said simply as a reminder that the true church is not a building. When we say, "I am going to church," what really should be said is, "I am going to the building where the church meets." If a person thinks of the Church as only a building, he or she misses the point entirely.
This also means that any local church congregation that is doing nothing to get outside the walls of its building to reach a hurting world is not functioning as the Church, and is also missing the point, completely. This kind of church just does not get it, period, and I am not talking about fund raising events or merely social activities. I am talking about ministries that are organized with the express purpose of reaching people for Jesus .
The big question to be addressed is to what extent does a person need to be committed to a local church, and for what reasons? Why go to church? How does one determine which church to attend?
First of all, why do YOU attend church?
To make new friends?
For corporate worship?
The thing to do on the "day of worship?"
Makes you feel good?
To get your spiritual needs met?
Fulfill your religious duty?
To use your spiritual gifts?
It's what Christians do?
My girl friend or boy friend goes?
To meet other hurting people?
Let's go to the second question, "How does one determine what church to attend?" I will answer this question by asking more questions.
l) Is the church fulfilling the Great Commission given by Christ in Matthew 28:19-20, by getting out of its walls and going to the hurting and needy people of the neighborhood and world?
2) Is the church centered on programs that are really helping people, or is it just another "religious activity?"
3) Does the church adhere to the basic tenets of Christianity?:
Jesus being God in human flesh, the virgin birth, death on the cross, the bodily and literal resurrection of Christ, the inspiration of the Bible, the second coming of the Lord to this earth, and the indwelling of all true believers by the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
4) What is the attitude of the church toward its visitors? How does it view the people who are "different" from the average worshipper? (Their dress, hair styles, life styles, etc.)
5) Does it have practical and biblical Bible teaching?
6) Is the church guilty of one or more of the three "isms?"--traditionalism, legalism, or judgmentalism. TRADITIONALISM means "we always have done something this way and we are not going to change." LEGALISM says, "If you are a Christian you must believe this way or that." JUDGMENTALISM states, "If you are really a Christian you would not be doing this or that." Be alert to these kinds of churches. They will probably hinder your spiritual growth more than help it.
7) Does the church have opportunities to use your spiritual gifts, abilities, and talents, and does it encourage you to seek that?
8) Is the church controlling? Do you feel that you cannot pursue your dream or passion in life without the support and blessing of the church? Here are some other ways that a local church can be controlling: over commitment by being involved in too many activities, trying to live up to the expectations of other people in the church, not being able to say "no" to someone or something because you do not want to appear as not "being available to God", and doing something just because there is no one else to do it.
However, don't become a "church hopper."Are you going to change churches every time you do not agree with something,(unless it is a theological issue) or someone offends you? That is a cop out! Some people leave churches over very minor issues. There are, however, some valid reasons for leaving a church.
1) A major doctrinal issue that concerns salvation, the inspiration of the Bible, or morality.
2) Judgmentalism or legalism.
3) The pastor just wants to gain a following.
I believe that there are some valid reasons also, for missing or skipping church.
1) If a person has had a major "blow-up" with their spouse or other family member just before leaving for church, it is probably better that you do not go to church unless there is resolution and forgiveness. Otherwise, if you go to church you will more than likely be thinking about that more than having an attitude of worship, so why go?
2) Is there a major family matter that comes up that really should not wait until after church to be resolved or dealt with?
3. Do you have an opportunity to assist someone who needs help RIGHT NOW?
4) Sometimes people have to work at a job that requires them to work on that day. God understands. He knows that we must support our families.
(The above article was taken from a book I am working on.)
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