I was on Facebook and someone posted a status to the nature of this: You can not be a Christian and not go to church. Nope. After quickly unfriendly the person (no reason to fellowship with someone with such a radical view), I thought about it. There are people who agree with him in a much more subtle way.
I am concerned as everyone else about people who are not going to church, especially those who want to minister. I believe it is critical that we go to fellow. I have this strong conviction because many believers do not have this freedom. I have seen the underground church up close and personal. We owe to them to worship freely.
I also believe that any serious believer would want to have a solid ecclesiology. Having studied the early church in revival for the last 20 years, I can tell you that the importance of the called out ones or assembly of the saints was no minor theme in the book of Acts.
I am deeply concerned about the ones who have no desire to worship with other believers. Having Facebook lives all night where you give “words” with zero accountability is not what the early church did and considered being a congregation in a city.
What is the Assembly?
In most cases in the New Testament, the people of faith gathered as a group that was called out of sin and called into the fellowship of His Son. They saw themselves as “citizens of God’s people.” The concept of an assembly of the people of faith actually started in the Old Testament. We see this as the hebrew term Qahal which means assembly, convocation, and congregation is used almost 100 times!
It is worth saying that in the Septuagint that the word used for assembly is always Quhal and not edah. The other is normally translated to do with the synagogue which was for education. It is possible that the local assembly should be one of intercession and evangelism in the power of the Spirit; not endless bible teachings from the pulpit.
With the use of quhal and edah aside, the church is the people who are called out of darkness and living in this world of sin through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. In fact, the word church is from the greek word kurikos that means we belong to the Lord.
One thing that is worth saying is that regardless of the usage of the hebrew or the greek, the assemble was consider to be a holy gathering. When the people of God or the faithful came together, there was a holy presence about it. This is in line with Matthew 18:20.
In the Old Testament, it was rare to have an assembly and was normally in response to widespread sin or corruption (Joel 2 would be example). However, in the New Testament, the assembling of the saints was a common thing. In some cases, it was a daily thing.
Does Church attendance save?
Now, we can answer the question more correctly. Is being part of the Assembly make you in right relationship with the Lord? The same answer is no. Judas was not. Peter went through a time where he was not. In fact, only John the Beloved was faithful in the moment of testing. They had all the revelation one could have and still failed.
As far as I am concerned this is an issue of soteriology of the doctrine of salvation. If we truly believe that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone and in Christ alone; we can not add “but you have to go to church” to it. It just does not work that way.
The bigger problem is what the early church saw as ecclesiology is a far cry from what we think it is today. The believers in Acts did not “go to church,” they just lived life. Most of their gatherings were unplanned and just when believers came together at the same time and the same place. The ideal of massive building with a cross on the top of it for the whole city to see was foreign to the early church.
Therefore, given that our ideals concerning what is an assembly and what is church life is radical different to those of first century; the answer must be that church attendance in our modern context does not equal to any level of spirituality. Church, as we know it, is more Catholic than apostolic.
Why Church life matters?
As I said, I am concerned about the lack of church attendance by people who want to minister. I am about sick of the Facebook prophets who want to do live shows all night but can’t drive a mile to church on Sundays. There is no accountability whatsoever.
In these last days, assembling the saints is going to be more important than ever before. I personally believe that we will in time move towards a more apostolic view of the kurikos. The book of Acts saw the Assembly as people coming together led by the Spirit and as more persecution is realized in the western context, this would become more of a reality as well. In some ways, the underground church is more blessed spiritually than the western Church will ever know.
We are called to gather with other believers to have corporate worship, prayer and to reach a lost and broken world with Jesus Christ. We can not actually have corporate worship unless we assemble ourselves together to worship. While this could take place in the check out line of Wal-Mart where two believers gather; it normally is in the context of a meeting on Sunday morning.
The Assembly is also to be the salt of the earth to the community it operates in. It is to lead the social discussion. This is not possible to do as one guy on a Facebook live giving general “words” to strangers who listen to your show. It has to be done in cooperation with other believers in your city that gather as the Assembly.
Therefore, Church does not save you but it is pretty important for the believer!