Today’s Reading: Hebrews 10
I have heard this question many times: “Do I have to go to church to be a Christian?”
The answer is obviously, “No, you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” But that’s not the entire answer. The end of the answer is this, “You do have to go to church to be a growing Christian.” One of my dear friends says it like this: “Only weak people think they are strong enough to do the Christian life alone.”
I grew up hearing and reciting Hebrews 10:25 as the reason for attending church: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (KJV). But I love the way the Passion Translation opens the passage. It’s much more profound and challenging:
“Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing, because we need each other! In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning.” (Verses 24-25)
T. M. Luhrmann, professor of anthropology at Stanford, wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times weekend edition several years ago called, “The Benefits of Church.” Consider what she said about why going to church is good for you:
“One of the most striking scientific discoveries about religion in recent years is that going to church weekly is good for you. Religious attendance—at least, religiosity—boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as much as two to three years to your life.”
When we are connected to the church, we are better people. Think about it this way. Many members of the church can accomplish collectively what the same members cannot do individually. Think of an airplane. One hundred percent of it is made up of non-flying parts, but when we put them together, they can lift 175,000 pounds. How much can you bench by yourself? The power of the body of Christ is that together we can do the unimaginable.
The writer of Hebrews says that consistently not attending church is the habit of some. What a dangerous habit. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then some people must really love church because they are absent a lot. Honestly, though? Absence makes the heart go wander.
Popular reformer and author R. C. Sproul said it brilliantly:
“It is both foolish and wicked to suppose that we will make much progress in sanctification if we isolate ourselves from the visible church. Indeed, it is commonplace to hear people declare that they don’t need to unite with a church to be a Christian. They claim that their devotion is personal and private, not institution or corporate. This is not the testimony of the great saints of history; it is the confession of fools.”
The writer of Hebrews goes on to explain why this habit is not healthy: “Because we need each other! In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning” (verse 25, TPT).
The church’s job is to encourage and urge each other onward. What a great job. The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition expands it even more with these words: “admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another.” In a world and in a time that is so dark and discouraging, the church should be the place we go and come out better than we went in.
Russ Blowers, a minister in Indianapolis, knew the Rotary Club members would ask about his profession when he attended a local meeting. He didn’t want to just say, “I’m a preacher,” so when his turn came to introduce himself to the group, he said,
“I’m with a global enterprise. We have branches in every country in the world. We have our representatives in nearly every parliament and board room on earth. We’re into motivation and behavior alteration. We run hospitals, feeding stations, crisis-pregnancy centers, universities, publishing houses, and nursing homes. We care for our clients from birth to death. We are into life insurance and fire insurance. We perform spiritual heart transplants. Our original Organizer owns all the real estate on earth plus an assortment of galaxies and constellations. He knows everything and lives everywhere. Our product is free for the asking (There’s not enough money to buy it).”
That’s called the church. And it’s amazing! Why would we skip it each week?