I started a group on Facebook and broadcast membership opportunities to millions. So far thirteen joined. Some others wrote back in horror. The question is obvious. "What do you mean stop going to church?" A stream of good reasons to the contrary then follow. This is what I mean. Pass it along.
If you had known sin in your life, would you still go to church?
Certain denominations would answer in the affirmative. After all, we go to church for reconciliation and confession.
If you had unsaved friends and family members, would you still bring them to church?
Of course. That's where they can hear the salvation message.
If you were hurting, needed support, wanted to go someplace safe for a while, would you still go to church?
Naturally. Church is a refuge, a place to minister to people.
As you consider these things, your natural and initial response to such a suggestion to "stop going" would seem preposterous. And I agree. But the question/suggestion is far from natural and knee jerk. It is supernatural and requires insight from God's Word.
If you have been following this blog or reading your Bible then you already know that the "church" is really "the Church". It is the Body, not a building. It's primary purpose, far surpassing all others, and the focus of this question, is to worship God. That is why He saved us. We were reconciled unto God to enjoy Him, worship Him, give Him glory. Take a look at some Scripture.
Romans 5:10-11 - "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement."
We have this same ministry of reconciliation, to bring others to God that they too may worship.
II Corinthians 5:18-20 - "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."
Again, why were we reconciled? God says in Colossians 1:21-24, "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:"
Did you notice the parallel to my calling verse of Ephesians 5:25-27, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
The Church is to be holy, blameless, without spot or wrinkle. Why? Just so we can be proud of our own personal whiteness? God forbid! It is for the glory of God. This glory is best expressed by the Church when they come together to worship.
God calls us to worship in the beauty of holiness and we see this call four times in the Bible:
I Chronicles 16:29 - "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness."
II Chronicles 20:21 - "And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever."
Psalm 29:2 - "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness."
Psalm 96:9 - "O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth."
This is what we see in the early Church examples in the book of Acts. We see it in Acts 5:12-14, "And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)"
The church was all together in one accord in Solomon's porch. That is where they went to worship at this moment. The apostles were worshipping in the exercise of their gifts.
Further in Acts 2:46-47 worship is seen in the breaking of bread and praising God, "And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."
Prayer and supplication was also an hallmark of the Church in Acts 1:14, "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren."
You will notice that I selected each of these verses on purpose to make another point of the term "one accord". The reason for this is to highlight the questions asked at the beginning of this blog. Let me sum them up this way. What happens when sin and righteousness meet together at a time intended for worship?
The Corinthians had that problem and God dealt with it like this:
I Corinthians 5:6-11, "Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat."
What happens when a little leaven leavens the whole lump? There is no worship. There is no glory to God. There is just sin. Praise God for His grace and mercy to deal with this. But again I remind you, that is not the purpose of the church gathering. Where do you find in the Bible instances of the church gathering for the purpose of confession, reconciliation, ministration, etc.? You will not find it except in the context of worship. Here's a great example from Acts 6:1-4:
"And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word."
It is a dangerous thing to mix worship, evangelism, and reconciliation in one meeting as we so often do these days. God gives one final warning in I Corinthians 11:29-30, "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep."
Keep them separate therefore. Come together as the Church to worship in the beauty of holiness first. Come together as ministers to reconcile one another outside the camp. Come together as witnesses outside the camp.
So, should you stop going to church? Or start being the Church? The Church is formed to worship God in the beauty of holiness, in spirit, and in truth. Sin has no place in this and must be kept out to the glory of God. Keep it in its place and time as appropriate as a church gathering for evangelism or reconciliation or ministration. But keep it out of worship.