embeginshere asked: I was talking to a friend about the importance of going to church and he questions whether or not it actually is important. I believe it is for various reasons but could you give me some good biblical evidence and your opinion on why church is important to the Christian?
Unka Glen answered: There are those who think of church buildings as being sacred and important places. But I’m pretty sure that the cathedral that God built for Himself is the the human heart. And it’s true that I’ve had more church at the jailhouse, or the drug rehab, or even preaching chapel services for professional sports teams, than I usually have when I’m in church.
As such, I’ve never really fallen prey to that almost superstitious idea that being in a building built by humans, and run by humans, is somehow making me more holy just by being in there.
However, it is vitally important that you receive all the things that a church is meant to do for you. So I’d say it’s important to be in a GOOD church, and by the same token, it’s a believers responsibility to get out of a bad church, and into some kind of scenario where their needs are being met.
So let’s define what is meant by church, and we’ll start with the Bible, as you requested. Bible nerd powers ACTIVAAAATE! [there’s a very small puff of smoke, and an ordinary Greek dictionary appears].
The Greek word for church is ekklésia. This word is created from smooshing two smaller words together: ek and kaleó. Kaleó means those who are called, and those who have been invited in a personal way. Ek means “out of, but still pertaining to”. So ekklésia means to be called out of the world, but in a way that still impacts the world.
You might say ekklésia is about creating a space where you come away from and shut out all the distractions of the world, and you focus on God, where you meet with others who have responded to the call, to have fellowship, accountability, and to encourage one another.
I think it’s reasonable, given the way the early church took shape, for us to also look at church as a place where good doctrine is taught. As you’ve heard me say before, I don’t like that “eat the meat and spit out the bones” mentality. Bad theology is toxic, and there’s another church full of sweet and loving people just like this, that preach good theology.
Also, looking at the early church, I think it’s reasonable that while we should come to focus on God, that there would be elders, or deacons, or mentors, or pastors who focus on serving us. That they would give us a word that helps set us free, and helps map out a road they know so well, a road to a more intimate personal walk with God.
So look again at these elements, you’ve got the getting away from it all, the focus on and worship of God, the fellowship and accountability, and the doctrinally sound teaching and effective spiritual advice. If you’re pointing your friend to a church where all those needs are going to get met, then great, if not, well, that’s where it gets complicated.
These days, lots of people tell me that their small group (Bible study, cell group, campus fellowship, etc.) is where they get almost all of those needs met. These groups have become their church body in everything but name. And they really only go to church just for the worship, or for the fellowship, or maybe to meet just one of those elements that’s left unfulfilled.
And all that works, even if it’s not optimal. The problem comes in urging people to get to church, when their church isn’t functioning as a church. Yes, it can be easy to take a good church or body for granted, and get out of the habit of going (Heb. 10:24-25), but if your friend’s church was doing a kick-butt job of meeting his needs, he’d probably already be there.