Patheos answers the question:

Do Christians Have to Go to Church?

christian congregation praying

The idea of a Christian not going to church is a strange one for many people. In fact, many would argue that a Christian who does not ever attend church is not a Christian at all. Most denominations expect or require people to attend church services at least every Sunday and on special occasions, such as Christmas, that may not consistently fall on a Sunday. Most Christians, at least theoretically, agree with these requirements. That said, “going to church” is understood more authentically as an opportunity rather than a requirement.

So, Do Christians Have To Attend Church?

Weekly worship services are a time for Christians to gather together to worship God and hear his word. Christianity teaches that corporate worship—that is, worship in community—is a unique part of the practice of the faith. While most Christian teaching urges individual believers to incorporate private practices of worship, prayer, and reading of scripture into their daily lives, such practices are not meant to be a substitute for the gathering of many believers together to praise God with music, the hearing of God’s word, and the Lord’s Supper (Communion). Church services are intended not as a time for a group of individuals to have simultaneous individual devotional experiences in a room together but as a time for individual believers to join together in a corporate experience.

Aside from worship, church services contribute to the development of faith and practice. Christians hear scripture read, have it taught to them through a sermon or homily, sing songs that cultivate a sense of trust and confidence in God, and recite creeds that shape their faith. Church services are also a time for Christians to interact with fellow believers, create a community network, and talk about the struggles they may be having. Christian communities also often support one another with meals, visitation when sick, and loving listening.

Church attendance has many positive benefits for Christians, but most people understand that under certain circumstances a Christian may not be able to attend services regularly. Poor health and job demands may often interfere with a regular practice of church attendance. The Covid-19 crisis created new opportunities for engaging with a church community via online services. While few would advocate these as a permanent substitute for gathering in person, they allowed many to connect with fellow believers.

Church services are meant to help Christians deepen their faith and give practical advice and encouragement on how to live out their faith each day. Unfortunately, not all churches live up to that standard. A person may avoid church services if the congregation has become gossipy or judgmental toward those going through difficult times. Churches also have cycles of growth and decline, and some members may find their enthusiasm for attendance waning if their church is struggling. Similarly, a person may find that, as they age, different things appeal. A young professional might be most interested in good speaking; an elderly adult may wish for a community to make up for the loss of a spouse; a family with young children may be more interested in early faith formation. If a church culture changes, a Christian may become temporarily “churchless” while looking for a better fit.

Read more about the role of the church here.

1/17/2023 7:58:31 PM
About About Kathleen Mulhern, Ph.D.
Kathleen Mulhern is a writer, editor, historian, speaker, and professor. She teaches courses in world history, European history, and history of Christianity. She has taught at Colorado School of Mines and Regis University, and is currently an adjunct professor at Denver Seminary in the areas of Church History and Spiritual Formation. Kathleen graduated with a B.A. from Wheaton College, earned an M.A. in French Literature from the University of Denver, an M.A. degree in Church History from Denver Seminary, and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Colorado.