Friday, June 30, 2017

Is Church Optional

Across the nation, church attendance is down. Very few families have the commitment that was held in the past that leads to faithful attendance. Families are loaded down with responsibilities and activities, church attendance can easily shift down the ladder of importance. Excuses run rampant, family time, recreation time, catch up on chores, rest...all valid needs, but a glimpse of where our commitment lies.

Christians know we should 'go to church', exposing excuses and bringing convicting reminders doesn't get to the heart, where true change occurs and priorities are set. A recent article revealed biblical truths about church attendance that remind us of the blessings that a church body offers and the joy that comes with obedience.

1. Church attendance is a visible expression of an invisible reality: that you are a member of Christ’s Body.
To be a part of the church is precisely to be one member of a much larger people; no one believer can be the church on their own (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). The Body of Christ is a universal, physical reality; Christ looms through Creation by His Spirit that inhabits believers across the globe. And if you claim to be a member of that Body then we will find you within the Body, doing the things that the Body is doing, going the places the Body is going (Ephesians 4:16). If you claim to participate in Christ, it would very naturally follow that you would also be participating in His Body.

2. Church attendance is a physical practice that forms us.
 As Christians go to church, we embody the identity with the Body of Christ that we claim. As we sit in the pews, we are taught to wait patiently for the coming of the King. As we kneel for confession, we remind ourselves that our God is greater than we are. As we listen to the sermon, we are reminded that His Words are our authority. And as we rub shoulders with other believers, we are reminded that we are not in this journey of faith alone. For Christians, church attendance is a physical practice that forms us into the identity that we claim.

3. Church attendance is Christian obedience.
We have adopted a church culture that is heavily based on preference. If I don’t like the worship style at the church, I’ll attend another; if our congregation doesn’t agree on worship style, we’ll offer two different styles of worship services. And while this is not entirely bad, it certainly isn’t a foundation we want to build our theology or our churches on. 
Participation in the Body of Christ is not optional for believers, but is a matter of obedience. The Word of God makes it imperative that we don’t neglect the gathering of believers (Hebrews 10:24-25), and reminds us that faith festers in community, in the gathering together of believers (Colossians 3:16).

Christ does adopt an authoritative tone when He calls believers to the sacraments. Regarding the Lord’s Supper, He commands that when believers meet together (the Text assumes that they do) they receive the elements of communion. Likewise, the Word of God commands believers to be baptized and to baptize (Matthew 28:19, Galatians 3:27, Acts 2:41, Acts 22:16). The grace that is extended in the Supper and baptism cannot be received in isolation. You cannot give yourself communion or baptize yourself; they are primarily and fundamentally acts of community. Commanded to participate in these means of grace, believers must participate in the local church as a matter of obedience.

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