Church Should Be Your Excuse for Missing Everything Else

Church Should Be Your Excuse for Missing Everything Else February 12, 2020

I am under the unwavering conviction that unless I am genuinely ill, people are in the throes of death, my legs are rendered inoperable, or we are trapped in our house, church attendance is mandatory. I will not miss it. Even when I’ve had to miss it under those circumstances, which is quite rare indeed, I have hated it. However, for the sake of being completely transparent, this was not always the case, especially early on in my faith. There was a point in my life where I consistently worked on Sundays. I was a Christian and had been for only a couple years at that point, yet I considered myself to be a faithful Christian who was stuck in between a rock and a hard place. I had no other means of income that I was bringing into the family at that time. My wife worked, but we needed both streams of income to make ends meet and care for our newborn—and yet there was a steadily growing conviction in my heart that I should be coming to church every single Sunday.

While the argument could be made that it was necessary for me to miss due to the circumstances I found myself in, the reality was that I needed to swallow my pride, get another job that could allow me to attend church on a weekly basis, and just be found faithful to come. At some point, the conviction came to me that church was a non-negotiable. What’s more than this is that I came to believe church attendance is a non-negotiable for every Christian. The reason this is so is that I believe the New Testament teaches that our time together as believers in formal, corporate worship, is to be one of the most precious things we partake in as Christians. I believe that regular attendance is so important that it reveals our hearts and priorities. It reveals much of what we treasure, and likewise, much of what we don’t. It especially reveals what we understand about the person of Christ and His saving work upon the cross. Right then and there is where I lost several of the readers.

This is one of those areas where many people have it settled in their minds that church attendance is optional. They can miss here and there without any large repercussions to their spiritual well-being, and their own families will not be any worse off either. However, the reality is that I have never known a casual attendee to thrive in any meaningful capacity. I have yet to meet another pastor/elder that can testify to the exemplary faith of the professing Christian who abdicates regular church attendance. I have witnessed seasons of growth from them, yet I have simultaneously witnessed a stunted growth because invariably, they are sporadically absent from the ordinary means God has given them for their maturity, encouragement, and perseverance in the Christian faith. More often than this stunted growth though is no growth at all, or worse, a “back-sliding” of sorts.

At the onset, I will clarify that there are extenuating circumstances that allow for people to miss church. There are always exceptions to the rule, but exceptions exist as exceptions because they are not the rule. Exceptions to the rule prove the rule. Often, people capitalize on the exceptions to the rule because they have no real intent to be found faithful to the rule itself. Thus, they can confidently assert there are valid reasons to miss church, and thereby assuage their conscience. I would argue that not only does this fundamentally misunderstand the point of why the body of Christ gathers together to worship corporately on Sundays, but the thing which garners their focus is the wrong thing. We ought not to be looking for all the reasons we can miss church. We ought to be looking for all the reasons we should come to church.

Instead of trying to find ways we can settle our conscience by neglecting the assembly of the brethren, we ought to highlight the very reasons that coming to church regularly is a benefit to our souls. We ought to find delight that we can be united in a local body that functions together in service to one another (1 Cor. 12:12-27). In this unique giftedness being exercised among the members of a local church, particularly through the gifting of teachers, we then come to grow in maturity as we attain to the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God (Eph. 4:11-13). These teachers also equip us for works of service for the edification of that local church body (Eph. 4:12), which in particular is expressed through bearing one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), encouraging one another (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 5:11), building each other up in our most holy faith (Jd. 1:20), pushing one another on in perseverance to the end (Heb. 10:23-25), and pouring out compassion (Eph. 4:32), forgiveness (Col. 3:13), love (Jn. 13:34; 1 Jn. 4:7), brotherly devotion (Rom. 12:10)—and even simply putting up with one another (Eph. 4:2).

How can we be found to not only benefit from these things, but be a blessing to our brothers and sisters in Christ if we are regularly missing church? Can we be said to really understand the importance of these things if we are willing to miss out on these benefits in favor of other things, even if only every once in a while? The reality is that we cannot. You cannot even within the company of “two or more” other Christians, for very good reason. Not only does Matt. 18:15-20 have nothing to do with a bonafide definition of the church, God has not designed for these things to be worked out amongst only those whom we would like to be numbered among.

Beyond these “one-anothers” mentioned above, it cannot go without being stated that another key aspect to attending church regularly is being found in a position of submission to one’s elders (Heb. 13:17). The author of the book of Hebrews issues a straightforward command to obey your leaders, but to do so in an attitude of humility and genuine submission. The reason being: they give an account for your soul, and if you are a person who causes them grief in this task, it will be unprofitable for you. The idea here can be taken to mean that you give them joy by being found in obedience, but also, that you are quite literally just a joy to shepherd. Thus, the natural conclusion to this is that if you are difficult to shepherd, uncooperative, argumentative, negligent, complacent—or simply even non-existent, it doesn’t benefit you in any sense. Beyond this, we are called to consider the outcome of our leader’s lives and imitate their faith (Heb. 13:7); how can we do this if we are not among them on a weekly basis? How can your elders faithfully shepherd you if you are a fair-weather attendee?

There are numerous other, positive benefits to attending church—but at the heart of this post, I really want to address what I believe to be the fundamental issue behind why people treat church attendance as optional: they believe that the church exists to serve them and their felt needs. In other words, they are consumers. They believe the church exists for them and to serve them. They come to the church when it suites them and once they have had their fill, they either move on to another church, or, they simply come at their leisure as they feel some pressing need. In their minds, church is not a place where they can live out their faith in community. It is likewise not a place they feel any meaningful connection with, save for those times they feel a particular thirst for a “dose” of religion. They never move beyond a me-centered approach for why they come to church in the first place, which invariably leads to their departure for one reason or another.

I believe this to be the case because much in the same way, they have treated the Christian faith as a commodity to be consumed. In other words: they have not understood the fundamental principle that while the Christian faith is for them, it is certainly not about them. They have not grasped the truth that even their salvation was not about them. It was for them, but it was about Jesus Christ. It has always been about Jesus Christ; from Genesis to Revelation, the whole of the Scriptures testify—not to man and something winsome within him that merits God’s love—but of the great love of the Father which was demonstrated to the world through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 4:9-10). Once we understand this, not only will the whole of our Christian existence change rather radically—how we view the church will also differ. We will become Christ-centered and other-focused rather than me-centered. Our view of the universe will grow beyond the scope of our own nose as we see how we play a part in the grand drama that is playing out before our very eyes. We will become less and less preoccupied with meeting our own “felt needs” and grow more and more concerned with what we can do to meet the needs of others.

Part and parcel to this will be a fuller understanding of the importance of being part of a local manifestation of the body—not simply as we feel like it, but as often as we can, because we will grow more dissatisfied with yoking ourselves with this world in favor of the bride of Christ. In essence, we will begin to see the body of Christ as Scripture portrays her: the spotless bride of Jesus Christ, for whom He died. We will look upon her radiance and loveliness, see her clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and her dear union with her Bridegroom—and we will desire that same union for ourselves. Here then is the fullest reason why we do not abdicate the assembly of the brethren: we are to meet together and encourage one another all the more as we see that great Day coming (Heb. 10:25). In other words: together, as this corporate gathering, we look with great anticipation of the Day when Christ will return and we get to partake in the wedding feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-10).

If I could put it even more clearly: we gather with the saints each Sunday, not simply out of obedience, nor even because of all the wondrous benefits found therein. We convene with the local church each weekend because we are betrothed, not as individuals, but as a body, to our Lord, Jesus Christ. We assemble together because He has assembled us together. We gather while it is still called “today” because we will be gathered together in His great halls with the believers of all time. If you can’t stomach meeting with believers today, while they too groan as they await the day of their redemption, in what possible reality can you say with earnestness that you will be united with them at the end of all days? When we get down to it, if you understand the importance of why we gather together each week—church should become the “excuse” you use to miss everything else that conflicts with it—not the other way around.

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  • Sami

    This is just one sided and prone to judge those who stopped going. There’s a story behind every one who left. Sure there are those with reasons mentioned here. But there are those also where the church is the one who made the mistake.

    Church fails too. Even fails to be the church God designed it to be.

    The church can be like the disciples who prevented those needy ones from going to Jesus. The church can also give so many man-made rules
    and norms to follow before someone would feel welcome if they follow them.

    This imperfect church doesn’t even want to be called out their mistakes and don’t want others to Facebook it. It’s easy to call out their ex-members who left as the ones making the mistake.

    If church always use the excuse that, church are body of sinners, even those who left are sinners. The ones who left are even more like that one lost lamb, the ones who stumbled because of the church’s failure, but the church feels like they are that one lost lamb, but the church are the 99 lambs. The church should start admitting and truly accepting their failure and go get the 1 lost lamb.

    • Dave B

      The problem with your theory is that it assumes that one SHOULD leave the Church because the Church made mistakes. No one should leave the Church, regardless of the mistakes made, because the Church is the Church which is the Body of Christ established by Jesus Himself. It’s really that simple. You don’t leave Jesus because of Judas.

      • Sami

        Even when the local church has become an unsafe place? We don’t even encourage people to stay in a relationship where they’re not safe anymore.

        • diana

          I love my church, it is like family. I agree with the author. However, as in life people are imperfect. Someone told me they were having a hard time finding a good fit in a church. There are many churches, find one. But like shopping for a doctor, please don’t allow disease to take you over until you find the right one.

        • Jesusislife

          Who ever said the church was a “safe” place? Safe to what? I understand what you are saying. And I agree that yes we should love each other Like Jesus loves. But there WILL be people who leaving claiming it is unsafe BECAUSE the church loved like Jesus and tried to point them to Jesus’s way for their own good and they did not recieve it and got offended and left. Jesus is not safe. We need to do this with regular attenders more than anyone! Jesus is life and truth and the only way…But He is not safe. His call is come and die to self so that He can give you a new self. Not exactly a safe message.

      • Sami

        The problem with assumptions is it’s an assumption, it may be true or not.

  • Unless of course you have been routinely abused by the church then run as fast as you can and find a community that actually lives the extravagant love of God with or without calling itself church.

    • Briant

      The Chuch is the body of Christ universal. If you are truly in Christ you are church wherever you go. That said, abuse in one body is not a reason to refuse to fellowship with all other churches. (be they bible study group, house church or mega church). Also, it is dangerous to judge a church on how we feel attending. Church is not a gathering of friends. Church is not a college. Church is the body of Christ coming together to steer and guide and help one another become more like Jesus and obey His commands. It is not a place where our needs will ever bee met if we go primarily to have our needs met. It is a community in which our needs will be met abudnantly by God’s grace on a variety of levels IF we go to serve Christ first and his people second and ourselves not at all. Church works when the body, in love(actual love that unswervingly works for God’s best for the loved), holds one another to what the head of the Church (Jesus) commands. Church does not work when we want it to be something other than what it was meant to be. As a Pastor I have been hurt hundreds of times by those in the church. I have been crushed and wounded and broken down. Never once have i serioulsy considered leaving the church. Why? Because I am there, I am part of the Church because my first Love Jesus called me to serve her. And ultimately I am not there for myself, or even the church. I am there serving and loving her despite her dark sides. Why? because That is How Jesus loves. All of us in Christ who claim to have Christ in us….therefore have within us the One who loves His church in that way. Its high time we let Him love the church through us.

  • Scot Ashley Sexton

    The kingdom of heaven is within, it is not external. You must be born again. Christ didn’t come to set up an organized religion. Modern day “church” is nothing but ego. Learning the Bible, studying scripture, giving tithes and offerings, serving in the house, praise and worship, dancing and shouting and all the other long list of stuff simply makes you feel good, which again is all ego. There is nothing wrong with any of this stuff, but is has nothing to do with God. The Gospel is simple, calm, steady and free of emotion. Christ came to free us, not give us a laundry list of regulations and rules to keep. Real freedom is not be able to pursue your desires, but rather being free FROM your desires. Christ said to go and forgive. So, go and forgive others for being angry (start with your parents) so that our Father in heaven will forgive you. Like, actually physically walk up to others and forgive them to their face. Your life will change. You don’t need church, you must be born again. It’s amazing how many people miss this concept.

    • tate

      If I don’t “learn the Bible”, how will I know what Christ wants me to do? Take your word for it. If I don’t study scripture, how will I know what God is saying to me? If I don’t give, how will I help others and not be a resounding gong. If I don’t praise God, how will I show my love for Him? What you speak isn’t the Gospel, it’s Humanism. You’ve taken God out of the equation. Real freedom isn’t being free from your desire … because Christ should be your desire.

    • Briant

      Brother, i understand what you are saying. but it is entirely unbiblical. The church is the universal body of Christ. All of the new testement including Jesus himself commands that we come together in submission to one another so that we might urge one another on to be more and more faitheful to the word and more like Christ. this is not an individual journey and was never meant to be. Without our fellow members of the body, speaking God’s Word by the leading of the Holy Spirit into our lives we WILL develop a God of our own design. We dont get to come up with our ideas about church on our own. We dont get to call ourselves a Jesus follower and not follow His teachings. Granted the “church” now often looks radically different then what Christ intended. But that does not excuse us or give us the freedom to dismiss accountability and fellowship with our believers just because we are disallusioned. Every prophet God ever called was disallusioned with Israel. God did not excuse them to refusing to go and serve Him in their midst so they could have their own personal relationship with him.

    • Bernardo Samano

      Very well said, Scot. Nevertheless, I believe all the good things you said I learned them in church. It is true, many of us have turned church into something far from it. Born again christians will worship their Savior, embrace the great commission, and support the body of Christ, His church.

  • Inquirer

    By ‘church’ do you mean that 501(c)3 corporation having a constitution, a board of directors, staff – including a COO called ‘pastor,’ and a Sunday morning program with presenters on stage addressing an audience?

  • Dr Paul

    I agree in spirit with your position. However I would not want to sound too dogmatic, it closes people’s minds. I like to encourage people to realize they go to church as much for others as for themselves.”Do unto others…” If you go with that motive, sooner or later someone there will really need your help or you’ll need theirs. What I feel is most important is that Christianity be discussed in a positive non-judgemental way. As long as we converse with love, not trying to protect a personal, preconceived idea at all cost, which I think is what you’re attempting to do. Along with you, that’s what I,m trying to accomplish, see my website:

  • Phillip Mayberry

    100% agree with this article. The thoughts of many hearts are being revealed right now. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). 1 John 2:3-4 says that we can be sure that we don’t know Jesus, and we are liars, if we don’t keep His commandments. One of His commandments is to assemble on the Lord’s Day, and another is to submit to pastoral care. The article provided Scripture for every point it made, and that Scripture was used in context. Then come the comments… childish open-ended question-begging… “but what about ME? But the church is not a building! But don’t be negative! But, but, but.” If this attitude had prevailed in history, none of us would have even heard of Christ, because Christianity would not have survived. Here’s the thing: the Bible commands that pastors correct and even rebuke (2 Tim. 4:2), and that those who promote heresy be marked and separated from. It’s heresy to suggest that you don’t need a pastor and elders, when the Scriptures so clearly command this. God does not change His Word for you; He changes you by His Word. ALL of us have been hurt by churches… just like ALL of us have been hurt by family members. Being hurt does not give us the right to disobey God’s commandments. Instead, what it should do is teach us to stop hurting others… including stopping grieving pastors and elders who “groan” when they see people rebelling against these commands (Hebrews 13:17), and hurting people by telling them that they don’t need to go to church (even though God commands it over and over in His Word). Oh- and if you don’t even have the ability to “submit to those who have authority over you”… because, well, there’s no one in authority over you at all… then you’re a rebel in God’s eyes, and you need to be converted. If you think that’s “judgmental”, the Bible tells us to judge those who claim to be Christians (1 Cor. 5:13) and tells us that we will know them by their fruits. In the same verse, you can see that it’s only the “evil person” who would be outside the assembly. Christ established His Church with His own blood. HE “gave” pastors and teachers” to you… by refusing to assemble on the Lord’s Day, you are refusing a gift from Christ and slapping away His hand. Yes, there are lots of bad examples today of churches… but there are also faithful churches, with pastors and elders whose entire lives are dedicated to faithfully shepherding the sheep. You may need to look at smaller churches without stages and productions to find the beauties of Christianity, but in any case, don’t let bad examples, pain, or your deceptive heart deceive you into thinking that you can follow Jesus while forsaking the assembly (Hebrews 10:25), rejecting pastoral care (Heb. 13:17), and neglecting the needs of the body (Rom. 12:3-5). To do so, Paul says, is to think “more highly of yourself than you ought!”

    • A Amos Love

      You mention pastors often…

      1 – …to submit to pastoral care…
      2 – the Bible commands that pastors correct…
      3 – It’s heresy to suggest that you don’t need a pastor…
      4 – …grieving pastors and elders who “groan”…
      5 – HE “gave” pastors and teachers…
      6 – …also faithful churches, with pastors…
      7 – …your deceptive heart… rejecting pastoral care…

      Have you ever wondered? Why? In the Bible?

      NOT one of **His Disciples** called another Disciple pastor?
      NOT one of **His Disciples** called them self a pastor?
      NOT one of **His Disciples** took the “Title” pastor?
      NOT one of **His Disciples** was “Hired” as a…
      Paid, Professional, Pastor, in a Pulpit?
      Preaching, to People in Pews?
      Weak after Weak?
      In a church?

      Jer 50:6
      “My people” hath been “lost sheep:”
      **THEIR shepherds**
      have caused them to *go astray,*

      1 Pet 2:25
      For ye were as *sheep going astray;*
      BUT are now returned to
      the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

      {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  • Doc Watson

    Well said. As a pastor of 45 years, this has been among my greatest burdens. You could have added a more detailed exposition of Hebrews 10:25, which addresses this directly, but your thoughts were a blessing to my heart. Soli Deo Gloria.

    • Rational Human

      Indeed. Empty seats don’t pay the bills, and it’s not like the collection plate fills up miraculously either, right?

  • Andrew Dircks

    An excellent article. Thank you, Grayson Gilbert.
    You very helpfully and rightly set out key New Testament (NT) teaching supporting regular church involvement. You do this especially in your fifth paragraph. I have not often come across the key point in your seventh paragraph. Then in your eighth an ninth paragraphs you give a sound, Christ-centred critique of consumerist churchgoing. And in your tenth paragraph, “the fullest reason why we do not abdicate the assembly of the brethren: we are to meet together and encourage one another all the more as we see that great Day coming (Heb. 10:25).” Great ideas, faithful to the NT. Thank you.

    One thing you have not done is give any NT justification for conceiving of church as ‘worship’. (There is no NT evidence that any of the NT authors or speakers conceived of church as ‘worship’.) You use the word ‘worship’ only twice, and without offering any justification for it. However, you refer to the church gathering many times, rightly using vocabulary and concepts that the NT does give us, including ‘assembly’, ‘gathering’, ‘the body’, and, simply, ‘church’.

    (The New Testament consistently applies ‘worship’ vocabulary and concepts to the whole of life, most famously in Romans 12:1, but in many other places also. Referring to or conceiving of church as ‘worship’ leads to two critical errors:
    1. we are inclined to get church wrong, because try to understand church by looking at the Bible’s ‘worship’ texts instead of the NT ‘church’ texts and we tend to ignore our responsibilities to one another because we are so focused on ‘worship’ (but Grayson, you have got it right here above),
    and 2. we get ‘worship’ wrong, because by implication, the rest of our lives, if not really ‘worship’, are relatively unimportant in how we honour God.
    If we want to worship God as God tells us to, then follow Romans 12:1 and stop calling church ‘worship’.)

  • Tedd Ludd
  • Bernardo Samano

    I read somewhere that 95% of those who “leave” the church, they do it because they were hurt, abused, disenchanted with double standard lives. That is bad. Let’s ask our Lord to help us live up to His expectations with the promised of the Holy Spirit working within us.

  • Judy Guse

    Thank you for your wonderful article! I think the reason people quit going to church or don’t go very often is because they aren’t receiving the truth and are not being spiritually fed. It took me several years to find a Bible believing, Bible teaching church! After I found one, I don’t ever want to miss a Sunday now! What a difference it makes when you are spiritually fed the truth! Now I invite others which I never did before because I have confidence they will be given the truth from the Bible and not a bunch of sermonized stories. And this church teaches the truth about controversial topics which the other churches I attended endorsed! Oh, what a difference it makes! A good majority of churches have plunged themselves in the corruption of apostasy!

  • Dwight J Kelley

    Dear Author,
    You have children, don’t you? Well then you fit in fine. Older adults without kids don’t, and this is a very truth no one wants to admit. Neither do older single people. Most churches have silently and unconsciously become little more than religious parenting support groups. No one wants to admit it, and I’ll die on this hill.

  • equinox

    One thing i find really odd among the christian community is their use of the word “church”. Often, Christ’s body is referred by it, sometimes, it is interchangeably used to mean “local congregation”, and in many instances, “an organization” or an “institution”.The misuse is often tainted with manipulation.
    Perhaps this is one item that shoo people away from knowing Christ. The ‘local congregation” surely has influence in the “growth” of a person. But the person’s true growth is found in Christ first. (to be continued … must drive)