Does the Life of Jesus support Church attendance?

Perhaps it’s because of corruption in the church, or maybe some feel the church is becoming irrelevant, but there seems to be a growing movement of Christians avoiding church attendance. Lower church attendance is nothing new. Church leaders have been bemoaning the lack of attendance for over half a century, but the fight has traditionally been about the unbeliever and church attendance; now we have another direction to look. 

Maybe you’ve heard the phrase that going to a stable doesn’t make you a horse, and going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. There are many believers that took this to heart, and are choosing another path. Some are attending in home meetings, while others have a time through the week where they sit as a family to honor God, and yet others just claim their faith is only about them and God and privately honor God.

So, why are believers leaving the church? There are so many answers to this question, but I want to explore the one that seems to be most popular and noble. Many people are saying that they are quitting the church to be more like the disciples and Jesus. There is an impression that Jesus and the disciples didn’t belong to the organized church, so why should we.

Did Jesus belong to the organized church?

This is a great question. We see Jesus consistently at odds with the closest thing to an organized church. We see Jesus putting the Pharisees to shame in their discourses. We even see Jesus fashioning a whip and running the money changers out of the Temple. Who put the money changers there? The Temple leaders. 

So, Jesus must have been apposed to organized religion, right? It’s interesting to find pockets of scripture at the right time. He had to go to the Temple in order to run the money changers out. It’s nice to find pockets of scripture at the right time. John 2:17 says, “…The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” Jesus had a “zeal” for the house of God. Let’s not assume the Temple and our church houses are on the same level, but the Temple was a meeting place, not only between God and men, but also between people.

Was the Temple visit a one off for Jesus? No, as a matter of fact we read in Luke chapter 4, “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.” What? It was Jesus custom to go to synagogue. This wasn’t the Temple, rather it was a meeting place, organized for the purpose of encouraging people to maintain a walk with God, teach one another on how to do this, and be an accountability to each other. 

I can’t say that Jesus came out and said that we should organize and meet three times per week, but it was His custom to go to synagogue.

Did the disciples belong to the organized church?

Surely no one can claim the disciples belonged to the organized church. After all they met in homes and beside the rivers. Of course they had to do such a thing. I once met a Christian from Egypt that talked about it being illegal for him to attend church. He had to have church hidden from the government. The disciples too were persecuted for their belief. Even though we see them standing up to the persecution, we also see them gathering in secret prayer meetings for Peter when he was in prison in Acts chapter 12. 

We also see them organizing in Acts chapter 5 raising support to launch outreach programs. In chapter three Peter and John were on their way to the Temple when they noticed a lame man. Paul even came to Jerusalem to seek out Peter and others that had organized.

Did the early church structure in a manner similar to our church today?

This is undeniable. In Acts chapter 16 Paul seeks out a group to worship with. He found the women gathered at a river praying together. Whenever he went into a city he looked for a group of people, and if he couldn’t find them, he held an opportunity for them to gather under his preaching. Remember when Eutychus fell from a window during a long sermon from Paul. 

One may proclaim loudly that these were home meetings and not organized in a church building. This argument is short sighted. Most of the gatherings were in homes. To open a Christian church in Israel during the time of the early church would have been as impossible as opening a Christian church in Afghanistan today. The Jewish people would have seen it as a pagan temple and burned it down. 

Paul established Timothy and Titus as pastors to set in order the church in their locations. The early church absolutely organized and met regularly. 

The idea that Jesus, the disciples, and the early church didn’t meet or organize simply isn’t true. The early church absolutely organized. This doesn’t excuse the corruption in the organized church, but it should encourage us to seek out a group of people that we can encourage and grow together with, whether its in a traditional church setting or a home gathering with friends and family. Church attendance isn’t only good for us, it’s scriptural. 

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