Why should you go to church? Those of us who regularly attend don’t typically struggle with questions like these, but generations have grown up considering Sunday just a day to sleep in, and they fail to see the value of inconveniencing themselves in order to add one more activity to their calendar on a day and time they’d like to go no where and do nothing. So–why should they (or even we) bother? Why make the effort? Why structure your Saturday evening to be able to comfortably get up the next morning to attend church?
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you. When a believing person prays, great things happen.” (James 5:16 NCV)
Throughout the ages, people have gone to church for various reasons. Those who couldn’t themselves read the written Word heard the Bible read aloud. Those who didn’t understand it’s teachings well learned from the pastor’s sermons. Yet today, most of us can read, and almost everyone can easily access any version or paraphrase on a smartphone or other device. As for having it explained to us–well, for most of us the very best Bible teachers are online, not live in a local congregation. So why bother making the effort to get ourselves to church in person on Sunday morning anymore? Isn’t it better to seek out an online sermon from Ravi Zacharias or Billy Graham or another exceptional teacher of God’s Word instead of gathering with a local congregation? This is obviously flawed thinking, but why?
Certainly we should learn from exceptional speakers whom we cannot listen to in person, but this should be in addition to gathering with a local congregation, not in place of it. Why? Because there is an often unrecognized purpose for gathering physically with a group of other individuals who love and follow Christ Jesus: it’s what we call “fellowship.”
The most typical verse given for church attendance is, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25 NLT)
Clearly, God instructs is to continue meeting together with others who reverence and love Him–and we can always trust His commands, even if we don’t understand the reasons behind them–but in this instance, He explains why we are to do so. Besides hearing God’s Word read aloud; besides hearing a message on that particular passage; the reasons God gives for fellowshipping with other Christians are 1) confession to another human being (James 5:16) and 2) encouragement (Hebrews 10:25)–neither of which can be done in isolation.
Yet these are two things many Christians don’t actually do! Showing up on Sunday morning, squeezing into a pew, sitting for an hour, then leaving quickly–we’ve effectively avoided confessing our sins to one another, and we haven’t been personally and individually encouraged by another Christian!!
So let’s discuss fellowship. We somehow interpret fellowship as spending time together, whether on Sunday morning or at other occasions. And as nice as that may be, I don’t believe that’s the real meaning of the word fellowship. The fellowship God speaks of refers to fellowship of the Spirit–of Christ’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, sometimes called the Advocate or the Comforter. This is, in fact, what Jesus said about Him before He left:
“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in Me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged. There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring Me glory by telling you whatever He receives from Me. All that belongs to the Father is Mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from Me.'” (John 16:7-15 NLT)
You see, if you have been born again of God, He has placed His Spirit in you–the same Spirit He has given me! His Spirit working in you will not only show you your unholiness in God’s eyes and reveal to you that true holiness isn’t you being good enough (because you never will be)–but the holiness of Jesus Christ God counts as yours when you become His! He will also use you as you develop a relationship with others who follow Him so you 1) listen to their struggles with sin and pray with them so they can heal (James 5:16), and 2) encourage them to persevere in their faith to the end (Hebrews 10:25)!
Today’s verse says to confess our sins to one another, yet most of us don’t confess our sins to anyone but God in prayer! As essential as that is, we’re missing a huge benefit by not sharing our struggles with other believers and being encouraged by and prayed over by them.
The verse in James commands us to, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you.” This is because “When a believing person prays, great things happen.” (James 5:16 NCV) We’re supposed to not only share our sins with other Christians, we’re supposed to then pray about it, and be encouraged by our fellowship with them to persevere in our obedience to Jesus!
So, may I ask, to whom have you confessed your sins to and had them pray with you about it this week? Who has encouraged you personally to persevere in your faith and in your struggle against the sin that each of us are tempted with? Are you so afraid of losing face in front of others that you cannot bear to open up to anyone about the struggles you are going through? If this is true, you’re not taking advantage of a massive resource God has built into the structure of His family, the church, and you are missing out on the real reasons to get up and go to church!
Please help me obey You by not only going to church, but also by seeking out other faithful followers of Yours to share my struggles with and be encouraged! Amen.