Up until a few months ago, I can honestly admit that I never thought about this topic at all. I never wrestled with the importance of it. It wasn’t until Shaun Nepstad, the Lead Pastor of Fellowship Church, in Antioch, CA, the church I attend every weekend, brought it to my attention. There is one decision that will impact your spiritual journey more than any other. It is not where you raise your children, how much you pay in tithing, or even who you marry. The greatest decision one will make once becoming a Christian is where they attend church.
It is important to note that the Church is the body of believers, not a physical building. The body of believers simply congregate and dwell in a church, thus making up the church. A church without a body is an empty building. A Christian without a body of believers surrounding them is going to tire quickly because they have nobody. According to Rev. Joseph Benson’s commentary of Ecclesiastes 4:10:
“How can the warmth and fervency of true Christian love and zeal be retained by him who stands aloof from, and has no intercourse with, his fellow-Christians?”
Attending church is more than a social event, it is more than a routine get-together, it is an opportunity to grow in our faith, hear the message, and learn from the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). And unlike 70% of the world’s population, we have the freedom to worship without hindrance or threat of death every single weekend.
Do I need to go to church?
There is an old adage that goes like this, “going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than sitting in your garage makes you a car.” And that is true. Believing these statements, and declaring them with your tongue and in your heart, is what makes you a Christian:
- there is One True God, the God of the Bible.
- the Bible is the only book of God.
- the Bible was Holy Spirit lead and that is the infallible and immaculate word of God.
- Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World, the Son of the One True God, and He came to this earth in the form of a man and is the Redeemer of all of mankind’s sin. The punishment for sin is death.
- Jesus died, rose again, and it is through His Resurrection – and His only – that we may ever enter into the eternal Glory of God.
This is what makes a Christian a Christian. However, going to church regularly most definitely defines what type of Christian you are. It impacts how you view tithing, marriage, family, relationships, and other topics. Where you worship infiltrates your inner being. The church is where you congregate with other believers and learn more about your faith.
There are many churches that do church, but fewer be the church. Failing churches are a real thing. A man led church and the teaching of false doctrine tarnish what church is meant to be. That is why choosing where you attend is the most important decision you make, once you decide to follow Jesus. A great church is one that is led solely by God’s Word, is dedicated to loving others and God, and is a light and a beacon of hope within the community. Tiffany Johnson states in her article for Desiring God, “In a world offering a multiplicity of viewpoints, there is one place that people can find the truth (John 8:26). The church is a lighthouse in an ethical fog (Matthew 5:14–16).”
What makes a great church?
There is a difference between a good church and a great church, and I believe most people would prefer to be involved with something great in comparison to good. Chad Missildine wrote an article highlighting these differences. Keep these points in mind when you are deciding where to worship on a Sunday:
“GREAT churches will do anything to reach people for Jesus, even if it means stepping out of tradition and comfort levels. GREAT churches put walk to their talk and take risks to reach this generation and culture.
GREAT churches, in the end, care more about what God has called them to do than about what is important to man. GREAT churches respect the 10–20% of all people who are the eternally unhappy, the complainers. Still, GREAT churches don’t allow these voices to reign over the voice that matters most.
GREAT churches have GOOD messages too, but their focus and intent is GREAT, in that they remain locked in on the goal of restoring broken and hurting people through the power of the living Jesus Christ and his message of redemption and restoration for the world. As a result, These churches have GREAT kingdom impact, GREAT eternal change and make a GREAT difference in their communities and beyond.”
It is important to note that this is simply one man’s opinion. However, Scripture can back up these statements. 1 Peter 5:1–5 highlights what the characteristics of a healthy church look like. Taking from Gregory Brown’s article, one I encourage you all to read, 16. Characteristics Of Healthy Churches:
I believe, as we look at this chapter, we find the characteristics of a healthy congregation. In chapter 5, he challenges and encourages the leaders (v. 1–3). He encourages the congregations to submit to the leaders, to practice humility and servanthood amongst one another, and to practice faithful prayer (v. 5–7). He also cautions the congregations to be alert and prepared for attacks from the evil one (v. 8, 9). Finally, he encourages them to continue to persevere in their trials (v. 10, 11).
These characteristics work. They are not random or signs of a mediocre church. They are points that we can follow and use as a reference when deciding where our home will be. Another sign of a healthy and great church is one that has many elders in it. A church that is actively helping those who are not as far down the road in their own work.
Referencing Tiffany Johnson again, “I am blind to my own blindness, and I need the perspective of others who are further along the road to Christ-likeness than I am. We are prone to minimize our own faults and focus on others’ (Matthew 7:3–5). Close-knit community lovingly urges us toward maturity (Ephesians 4:13–24; John 8:31–32).” A close-knit community also means that there are several believers present, which means the Spirit of God is present too (Matthew 18:20).
Craig Groeschel, the founder of Life Church recently shared this quote, “There is something better. To worship God together and be committed to worship Him together, to hear His Word together. Do not reduce Church to listening to a podcast. It’s so much more than that – it’s a community. It’s worshiping with other, praying for others, hurting with other, serving others, being involved in the lives of others.”
That is why choosing to dwell in a place that puts God first, that can boost your spiritual life, and strengthen your relationship with God is important. Find a church that will teach you about the restorative power of grace – that can heal you and your community – prays diligently, and offers truth and hope. Finding a great place to worship is of the highest importance to a Christian.