What do you think when you hear the emphasis upon “being the church” instead of just “being in church?” While I agree that the church is to do most of its shining and salting outside of the church walls; the ekklesia, by name, indicates a tenacious, you-are-to-have-to-persecute-me-to-stop-me-from “gathering together.” In a day of diminished attendance by the church member and scheduled services by church leadership, may these quotes remind you of the importance of not only being the church but being in church:
- “No county in the nation reports a higher percentage of church attendance than ten years ago.” ~Recent Southern Baptist Convention Study
- “Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as the transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.” ~D.L. Moody
- “For where God built a church, there the devil would also build a chapel.” ~Martin Luther
- “The church is the great lost and found department.” ~Robert Short
- “Stated simply, the number one reason for the decline in church attendance is that members attend with less frequency than they did just a few years ago.” ~Thom Rainer
- “Being a member of a church means realizing that we are responsible for helping the brothers and sisters around us to grow as disciples of Jesus. In the same way, they are responsible for helping us. We desperately need each other in the daily fight to follow Christ in a world that’s full of sin.” ~David Platt
- “If our attendance to church is to meet with God, then we dare not approach it with carelessness.” ~John Sartelle
- “Go to church once a week and no one notices. Worship God seven days a week, and you become strange.” ~A.W. Tozer
- “There is a great gulf between the Christianity that wrestles whether to worship at the cost of imprisonment and death and the Christianity that wrestles with whether the kids should play soccer on Sunday morning.” ~John Piper
- “Sure you can be a Christian and not go to church. Kind of like a zebra separated from his herd getting eaten by cheetahs is still a zebra.” ~Eric Davis
Have you read the story of the man who became president for a day? President James Polk spent his last day as president on March 3, 1849, and at midnight, Polk was out of office. But his successor, Gen. Zachary Taylor, a staunch church goer, refused to be sworn in on March 4, 1849 because it was a Sunday. He said, “Going to church was a higher priority than becoming president of the United States.” He postponed his inauguration until Monday, March 5. So for one day, US Senator David Atchison of Missouri was president pro tempore of the US. Can you think of anything more important than becoming president of the US? Zachary Taylor could – it was going to church.
Wow! While we have gained much by focusing more upon the heart-level of local church identity, we have also lost the discipline and dependability of previous generations. With the phasing out of our Sunday School “perfect attendance” has come a much more whimsical, fickle, and even blatant disregard for God’s house.
I hope you understand that I agree with the statement that “going to church does not make you a Christian anymore than standing in a garage makes you a car.” But….there are certain distinct places and days that have always been sacred and significant to Christ-followers. The place is the assembly. The day is the first day of the week. We may not derive our identity from a building or schedule, but we definitely demonstrate our identity in church attendance!
For those who may struggle with this biblical principal, I refer you to the writer of Hebrews:
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
May I implore you, for the vitality and efficacy of your local church, to buck the trend? Show up faithfully to every service possible at the church you claim is God’s will for your life. Sing. Share. Rub shoulders with others that need your growth and influence as much as you need theirs. See to “be” the church is defined by where you go. Sometimes the golf-course, job site, family gathering, or park is where God wants you to be an authentic, organic testimony. But let’s be honest, those places are not where God wants you to be when the local, redeemed assembly of believers are gathering! Be the God-honoring church member or leader by going back to the basics of being in church.