Our modern churches look very different from the early church in the New Testament. This is particularly true in the West. In America, our landscapes are dotted with mega-churches on sprawling plots of land where thousands of people gather to worship freely each week. Contrast this with the house churches in Asia where believers gather in small spaces under cover of the night in fear of torture and imprisonment if caught. The Asian churches much more closely resemble the early New Testament churches in virtually every way. With that in mind, does that make attending the safe, luxurious churches in America wrong for the follower of Jesus?
Regardless of what the church building looks like or who happens to attend, we are commanded in scripture to not neglect gathering together with one another (Hebrews 10:24-25). In fact, believers in Jesus are much more powerful and able to carry out His mission when they join together (Matthew 18:19-20). With that in mind, I think it is important to recognize that we should indeed be gathering to worship. We need one another for encouragement and strength. However, the modern church building is not the only option for coming together to worship.
I think the small group movement of the past twenty years or so is, at its heart, an attempt to get back to more of a New Testament model of the church. When a few believers gather together in someone’s home to share a meal and study the Word of God, they certainly seem to be honoring the example given in the Bible (Acts 2:42). Unfortunately, many small groups become little more than exclusive social clubs who give little thought to actually pursuing the Kingdom together.
Yet I have also seen small groups that band together to truly become the hands and feet of Jesus. They talk with their neighbors about Christ, clean up run down playgrounds and even move into troubled parts of the city so that they can more effectively minister to those in need. I have friends that play music in bars and pause to share the gospel and answer questions from the audience during their set. Still another group of people I know tailgate before professional football games, offering free food and prizes while sharing the message of Christ. I think all these methods are effective ways of coming together and “doing church”.
What then of our modern churches? As long as they are utilizing the pooled resources to carry out the commands of Christ to feed the hungry, care for the sick, look after those in prison, the orphans and the widows, then I believe the Western church can fill great needs in our society. I believe there is scriptural support for Christ followers gathering together to worship and encourage one another and to receive instruction from God’s word (Colossians 3:16-17; Ephesians 5:18-21). But this must be a jumping off point for the rest of the week for followers of Christ. We must look at our weekly service as a refueling station for us all to then go into the world doing the things Christ told us to do (Matthew 26:31-45). If we aren’t doing those things, then church attendance becomes irrelevant.
There is much more that could be said about this topic, but in the 600 words or so of this limited space I have attempted to provide some talking points to further the discussion. Next week I will focus on the financial aspects of the modern Church to wrap up my thoughts on the subject. Now it’s your turn; what do you think of the modern church and the obligation of Christ followers to attend? Are we going about it in the right way? Is there a better, more scriptural way we should be doing things? Let’s start the conversation…