“What use is the church?” As pastors we were sometimes asked that question, albeit in various forms. And people had many reasons for giving up on the Church. A trend that grew during lockdowns. Even now as lockdowns are easing, some people still find in-person meetings unnecessary./
It always grieves me when people give up on church, because they often abandon their spiritual walk altogether. And it often begins with thinking, “Is the church really necessary?”
So do we really need church meetings?
There is a growing tendency today to think that in-person meetings are no longer essential. But what does the word of God say? Most of us know Hebrews 10:25 which instructs us to not neglect meeting together. But Proverbs 27:17 is another relevant verse, even if it doesn’t specifically speak of church attendance.
Much of this Proverb deals with friendships. Verse 2, in fact, compares friendship to a honing steel. Rubbing tools against the honing steel sharpens them, making them fit for use. Similarly, the exchange of ideas with others sharpens our character. Our character flaws are laid bare. And this fosters growth, so that we can become useful tools in God’s hands.
This is how The Pulpit commentary states it. Interaction with others influences our manner, appearance, deportment, and character, sharpens our wits, controls our conduct, and brightens our very face.
We need communion
Lockdowns and social distancing taught us that separation from others is neither normal nor healthy. Lockdowns caused mental health problems as well as increased suicides and broken homes. Direct, in-person contact has proven essential to our mental, emotional, and social well-being.
So why wouldn’t it also be essential to our spiritual life? True, we can pray and worship God anywhere. And God can speak to us anywhere, at any time, and through any means.
But the church is more than a place of worship. It’s Christ’s body coming together to grow in Christ and learn together. It’s a community of like-minded people walking the same road. Church also means encouraging and supporting each other. It means helping each other grow.
In-person meetings are essential to spiritual growth
It’s easy to seem Christlike (even if we are not) if we see each other but rarely or only online. But as we spend more time together, pretending becomes more difficult. Our true character comes out. Our pride or selfishness. Our temper or impatience. We say or do things that irk, hurt, distress, or offend each other.
This is one of the reasons why we need to gather in person. The Holy Spirit uses these interactions with others to mold us and make us like him. It is mainly by being with others that we…
- Learn to forgive
- Cultivate the fruit of the Spirit
- Learn to serve
- Develop self-denial and humility
- Live out the love of 1 Corinthians 13
Even though more “meetings” took place than ever before, lockdowns revealed our need of communion, community, and personal contact. They highlighted our need of hugs, uniting hands in prayer, shoulders to cry on, and the fun and laughter of shared meals.
Online meetings can be useful, but they will always be second best. So don’t give up on the church – one of God’s greatest gifts to his people. It is one of our greatest sources of comfort and strength. Life can be hard and discouraging, but we find strength in walking the path together with others.
My cry today is: “Lord, don’t let me drift from your life-giving presence. Keep my heart close to yours, and delighting in your presence. And also delighting in fellowship with my brethren. Help me to always say, “I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Is that your prayer too?
Images: Online meeting by AS Appendorf | Church by analogicus | Women artwork by RoadLight.
8 thoughts on “Do We Really Even Need the Church?”
Well said, my friend. Being together does so much for the soul. We realize we’re not on this journey alone, and though zoom calls and whatnot provided an option for lockdown, it wasn’t soul-satisfying. It was more mind-numbing. Your words share the beauty of the body as it was intended. Thank you.
That’s a great way to put it. It is definitely mind-numbing! And I at least did not find it soul-satisfying at all. I’m so glad we can meet again!!
Perhaps character development happens in different ways for different people. I wouldn’t say that I always become more Christ-like from being with others. I can spend lots of time with others and never change. It is in spending time in God’s Word, understanding how he wants me to be, praying for the heart change, and yielding to His guidance that I become more like Him. Relationships are only one of the ways God reveals to me an area that needs work. And I definitely appreciate Godly role models. 🙂 We need each other’s prayers and encouragement. Wonderful post!
So true, Linda. Character change does ultimately come from the Holy Spirit and by immersing ourselves in the word. Yet, if we don’t spend time with others, it’s a lot harder to work on the fruits of the Spirit and Godly character, especially forgiveness! And yes, Godly role models are such a help!
I wholeheartedly agree. More often than not I leave live worship uplifted and strengthened; the impact of livestream worship is considerably diminished. I’m very thankful we’ve finally been cleared to attend in person again!
I know what you mean, Nancy. While grateful we could use it when that’s all we could do – it just wasn’t the same. The worship seemed somewhat hollow, a somewhat empty shell of its former self.
Our fellowship, being Italian, is of course also very demonstrative in affection. And has always been very much into spending time together too, dinners, outings, etc. How we missed all the hugs, fun, and laughter. And the opportunity to share and carry each others’ burdens in prayer. That’s just not the same via ZOOM either!
So very true, Sheila. We’re going to appreciate a lot more the face-to-face encounters and hugs, aren’t we!
Yes!! Here, thankfully, we already are!!
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