Do you feel like you have to go to church every.single.Sunday? Or on the other hand, do you never want to go?
It’s Sunday morning.
The pipes have a leak.
The car has broken down.
#3 has diarrhea.
#4 couldn’t let #3 have all the glory.
You haven’t slept in 3 nights and next week you’re moving house.
But by golly… you will not miss church.
It’s Sunday morning.
There’s nothing on the agenda.
You’ve read your Bible this week.
Life is going great and it’s a beautiful day.
Since this is the day the Lord has made let’s fully enjoy it at the park.
God is everywhere, not in a building.
You’re not bound by the law… Jesus came to set you free.
Clearly those who just go to church on Easter and Christmas aren’t really bothered. They go for tradition, to see some cute kids in the church play, or to make sure and hit the calendar highlights of the Christian religion. However, there are those who feel compelled from within to go to church every single Sunday. They never miss. Sickness, health, vacation or life trauma. They are there without fail.
On the opposite end there are those who believe in Jesus Christ yet do not prioritize Sunday morning church. They don’t think church means a building (technically it doesn’t), they think they can maintain an active relationship with Jesus Christ without regular fellowship, and they don’t feel constrained to attend because of legalism.
So who’s right? Well… it’s hard to say. But instead of looking for answers, let’s ask ourselves some questions.
Is there a mansion in heaven for perfect attendance?
Diligence, perseverance, and consistency are surely virtues. But does going to church every single Sunday without fail make you more spiritual? Does foregoing home groups and bible study for a season mean you are backsliding in your faith? Clearly many people think so or this wouldn’t be controversial. But I want to say that I don’t believe perfect attendance is the goal. “Perfect attendance” does not take into account seasons or circumstances. If you feel compelled to attend every single Sunday without fail then you should ask yourself…
Is it false guilt?
False guilt has nothing to do with what’s true or accurate, but is usually the fear of disapproval in disguise. This is particularly prevalent among Christians who take matters of the heart and conscience seriously and tend to find reasons to feel guilty when there are none (source). If you are worried others will think you’re a slacker or God will take your name from the book of life because you skipped church for a few Sundays, this is false guilt.
Where is it coming from? When did it start? Is missing one Sunday (or even one Sunday a month) a sin? What is the biblical basis for that and how can it be quantified? If you are going to a Bible Study, prayer group, Sunday morning and Sunday night service, which ones can you skip (or not skip) and not be sinning? It’s a big rabbit hole of guilt, but not the healthy kind.
Is church about me?
Sure we shouldn’t go to church because we feel falsely guilty, but we also shouldn’t determine whether or not we want to consistently go to church based on our own feelings. Why? Well, it’s as they say… feelings make excellent servants, but terrible masters. There is one thing people say (and I’ve been guilty of it myself) that really gets on my nerves. We use it to explain why we don’t want to go, didn’t go, or don’t like a church.
“I don’t get anything out of it.”
As I think about the times I’ve said this (which have been many) I feel a bit shameful. Of course we don’t need to stay in a church that has false teaching, where spiritual abuse abounds, or that’s dead as a doornail. God gave us brains. And yet… we don’t go to church to “get something” out of it. We go to church to “give something” to God. Our worship. A helping hand or encouragement to our brothers and sisters. To hear the Scripture broken down and discussed so we can put it into practice in our lives to glorify Christ. Not to get some type of good feeling that lingers until approximately Monday morning when we want to bite off everyone’s head and spend the day alone in the basement with Netflix.
Is there a duty to legalism?
You don’t have a duty to your pastor to attend. You don’t have a duty to legalism to be sure that you never miss a Sunday, no matter if your children are ill or an urgent matter needs your attention. You don’t owe taskmasters or control freaks in your church an explanation as to why you missed two Sundays last month.
But, instead of justifying why you don’t have to go to church because who are they to judge… ask yourself this question.
“Why don’t I want to go to church?“
Because if we consistently don’t want to go to church there’s something there. It might be sin (ours or someone else’s). It might be misplaced priorities. It might be we don’t feel comfortable or safe in our church. Or it might just be laziness because we got out of the habit.
Here are 3 reasons we shouldn’t go to church every week:
- You feel like something bad will happen if you don’t.
- You worry others will disapprove.
- You have church members or leadership who take attendance.
Here are 3 reasons we should go to church every week:
- You enjoy worshiping God.
- You feel compelled to encourage and serve your church family.
- You want to hear teaching that convicts and inspires you.
“I know a man who brought his children to church every week even when they were ill. He would wake them from their deep slumber, the very medicine they needed to receive healing, and bring them to church with a fever, runny nose and tears. That man was me.” (source)
Let’s stop being legalistic. Let’s stop using freedom as license. And let’s not determine our attendance based on what we “get out of” following God because, I hate to break it to you (and myself), what Jesus got out of following God’s will was death on a cross.
On second thought, Sunday brunch is looking pretty good right now…
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