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I am going to attempt to offer a simple and clear answer to this question. As such it will lack MUCH in terms proofs, since that would immediately and greatly lengthen the article. So I will just say now that for a more in-depth answer, I have a separate article which I link to at the end of this one.
As a Pastor, I’m certain I’ve heard virtually every objection to church attendance in the book. The following three however, are the ones I heard he most often.
“I don’t need a church to meet with God, I can meet with God anywhere!”
“I don’t need a pastor to tell me what God says, I can study the Bible for myself.”
“I used to attend a church, but the pastor offended me and I’ve never gone back.”
The first two reveal a misunderstanding of the purpose for which Jesus instituted the local church. The last objection is nothing more than an excuse.
Regarding the first two objections…it is true that you can meet with God ANYWHERE, but meeting with God is NOT the stated purpose of belonging to a local assembly of believers – so it means nothing in terms of a reason not to be part of one.
You see, the scriptures are very clear that a local assembly of believers is for the maturing of the saints in the to image of Jesus Christ & for training believers in ministry work.
THAT is Why Church!
God, for reasons that are His alone, determined that His children need a safe place of community, overseen by mature men of God who are able to teach and lead by way of example. Church is really a place of apprenticeship.
In a local assembly, governed by godly, well studied men, you glean from their wisdom and experience in the Gospel by way of repeated exposure.
In addition to the Pastors of a church, you are further influenced by the lives of other believers who are more mature that yourself. Over time, there will be both those you look up to, as well as becoming someone yourself to whom others look! This makes you both the student and the teacher.
Finally, you will, over time and repeated exposure become among the most mature in the local assembly. At that time you will do more mentoring that learning, but you never outgrow the need for ALL of your brothers and sisters input and example – even from the youngest in the assembly.
As far as the last objection which has to do with people’s feelings getting hurt – welcome to real life! That, believe it or not, is PART of your training and maturing into Christ’s image. You cannot mature in a place where you experience no hurt and no opposition.
How would you ever know that you’ve developed patience or a tender heart of forgiveness for your brethren if you were not challenged in terms of patience and the need to forgive from time to time?
Sure – you can have relationship with God…grow to some limited degree and even learn much in personal study without being part of a local assembly of believers, BUT you will be missing the greatest component of the Christian faith and you will NEVER mature like God intended.
If we are honest with ourselves. Most of us like to think we are the exception to the rule and that somehow “church” might really help most people, but “I’m different”.
Truth is – we are ALL embarrassingly the same! To claim otherwise is both childlike and arrogant – two features which, by the way, you would be challenged to mature in, within the environment of a healthy, loving community of believers led by godly men of God.
I will leave you with the final and biggest reason why all believers should be part of a local assembly of believers and that is because it is a command from our Lord through the writer of Hebrews.
“Do not neglect the gathering of yourselves together as has become the habit of some., and encourage one another ALL THE MORE diligently as you see the day of the Lord’s return approaching!” ~ Heb. 10:25