@robertkwendt || lead pastor
I can't even count how many times I've had someone tell me, "I can be a Christian (a follower of Jesus) and not go to church."
Every time I hear that statement, it bothers me. Not because I'm a pastor, but because of the story that led to that statement, or at least what the person isn't realizing because of believing that.
Often, this statement is said because of a bad church experience. This truly saddens me. However, our past experiences should not hold us back from walking fully with Jesus. It should not prevent us from being able to encounter more of him. When we gather as local churches, Jesus shows up in powerful ways. This is something we cannot miss out on.
Here's the thing. Technically speaking, Jesus tells us that faith in him is all we need. Even Paul (an early follower of Jesus) says in his letter to the Ephesians, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)." Yes, it is faith alone that saves us, not church attendance. However, I will also argue that it is hard to be a follower of Jesus and not be a part of the local church.
Here are some reasons why we gather at least once a week as a church to worship Jesus.
the church started with a gathering.
In speaking to one of his followers, Jesus said these words...
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven..." Matthew 16:18-19a NIV
When Jesus uses the word "church," he's actually using a word that means "gathering." Jesus' church is not a specific building or place. His church is a gathering of people. It is a group.
It's not just a bunch of individuals. It is a body.
We find the first launch of the church in the book of Acts. There we see that Peter and other followers of Jesus all gathered together in a room. As they prayed, the Holy Spirit descended on them. A powerful moment takes place and thousands of people begin to profess Jesus as savior. This is important to note, because we see that the Holy Spirit didn't simply descend on Peter. The Spirit descended on all who were gathered.
Jesus tells us that he will also be making another return. At this moment, we would say that the church age will come to an end. While followers of Jesus will be with him forever, the purpose of the church will be complete. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says, "After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
We won't be brought to Jesus as individuals, but rather as a group. So what does all this mean? Here's the simple point:
If the church was a gathering in the beginning and will be a gathering in the end, then why would the church not gather in between?
when the church gathers, it glorifies god.
Isaiah 62:5 paints a comparison between a bridegroom (Jesus) and a bride (his church). Here's what it says: "As a young man marries a young woman, so will your builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you."
God rejoices over his church. It brings him joy to see people who follow him gathered together.
Have you ever been to a sporting event, concert, play, or some type of major gathering? What does it feel like when the whole place is full? What about when it's empty?
When a stadium is full, there's a major energy boost. Players seem to give more effort. The event has an exciting buzz around it.
If we can pack stadiums to watch our favorite teams play, then shouldn't we be packing churches to worship God? He deserves a full house, a large amount of energy, a special buzz.
After all, he rejoices over us.
when the church gathers, it builds and encourages us.
You can only motivate yourself so much. I've found that I'm far more motivated to work out when I'm doing it with other people as opposed to when I'm doing it alone. Why? Simply because the people around me challenge, motivate, and encourage me. When I have them fighting for and with me, I put in far more effort than I ever could have on my own.
I can lift more weight with a spotter.
I run harder when I have someone to compete against.
I give an extra attempt when someone is there to pick me back up.
In writing to the church in Corinth, Paul says, "When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up (1 Corinthians 14:26)."
We have each been given special gifts and abilities. We have varying perspectives, ideas, views, and skills. When we come together, we're thrilled that we're able to build one another up through using the strengths we've been given. Most importantly, we're there to encourage one another.
Living a life for Jesus is not easy. There's an enemy who seeks to destroy all who follow Jesus. The world doesn't always fight for us. In fact, we're often looked down upon by others. This isn't new. It was actually even worse when the church was first forming.
The very word "Christian" was actually a derogatory term. These early followers of Jesus were killed for their faith, mocked, stoned, and ridiculed. However, the church continued to grow. Why? Because despite hardship, they continued to praise Jesus for what he did for them. When the hard times came, they leaned into God hard. They met regularly. They had one another.
When we go to church, we are surrounded by people who can encourage us and build us up. We're with people who can help us navigate our weeks ahead.
the power of the church.
You can pray in your closet. You can sing in your car. You can worship all throughout your week. As a follower of Jesus, you shouldn't be able to help but want to worship him, to put Christ first. You should also not help but want to be surrounded by others just like you to share in the excitement.
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Our weeks are full of tough tasks, setbacks, heartbreak, and challenges. What if we could have a place of refuge? What if we didn't have to be the only one in our office who liked Jesus music? When we gather as a church, we pray together, sing together, and encourage one another.
Jesus didn't give us local churches for no reason. He created local churches so that his followers will bring hope to the communities around them. He created them so his people could gather, sing praises, and build one another up.
We can all use a local church.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24-25. NIV