Recently I came across a blog post from Carey Nieuwhof titled, “Why Attending Church No Longer Makes Sense.” Prior to this I had not heard of Nieuwhof, but he seems to have a fairly large audience. This particular article garnered over 3,000 shares in 3 days.
As is common these days, the title is intentionally provocative and it isn’t what the post is actually about. Nieuwhof’s point is that merely attending church and sitting in the back without getting involved doesn’t make sense. He says with all of the online options available out there, those who are only spectators in the congregation don’t have much of a reason to go to church.
The article kicks off with this statement: “I can think of only two compelling reasons to go to church anymore.”
These are the two reasons given:
1) “The main reason I gather with the church is because I am the church.”
2) “The second compelling reason to attend a Sunday morning gathering is that you’re bringing a friend with you or because you yourself are exploring Christianity.”
After exploring these two reasons, Nieuwhof says “That’s it. Two good reasons to keep attending church.”
Noticeably missing from this short list is the primary reason that we go to church: to worship God! For this reason alone, attending church still makes sense and always will.
This article raises some important questions that the Bible has answers to. From what I can tell from this and other posts on the site, Nieuwhof desires that more people would regularly attend church. So it is a shame that his post misses the mark so widely.
There are a few good aspects to the article (as well as many other concerning parts, such as the suggestion to make teenagers the barometer of what our worship services should look like). Even so, I want to focus on the primary question: why go to church?
What follows is a response to those who may have read Nieuwhof’s article and are curious if there are better reasons to attend church.
His first reason: “You don’t attend church. You are the church.”
Nieuwhof is close to accurate here, but with a subtle and important difference. It would be more accurate to say, “You don’t attend church, you are PART of the church.”
The Apostle Paul used the metaphor of body parts to describe how we are members of one body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). The point was to push against division, with one member saying “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body.”
But rather than affirming with Paul that we are all important individual members of one body, the author of this article skews it and says that we, ourselves, constitute the church. This is inaccurate, and this thinking is what often compels people to shop around to find a church that meets their specific interests or to skip church altogether.
The author speaks out against a consumerist mentality as well as the mindset that keeps people satisfied with “going to church” via YouTube. However, if the individual is the church, than these habits are perfectly justifiable. If, however, we are individual members of one church body we should not neglect gathering together.
I would wholeheartedly agree with his view that Christians are to be “…living your life for Christ, demonstrating God’s love by serving others and sharing your faith with people.” This is an important aspect of the Chrisitan life and an important part of church life. But doing so doesn’t make you the church, it makes you an active part of the church.
His second reason: “[If] you’re bringing a friend with you or because you yourself are exploring Christianity.”
The fact that the only other reason given to go to church is to bring someone with you is concerning. While we should welcome unbelievers into our churches and preach the Gospel to them, this is not the primary purpose of the worship service.
The worship service—reading Scripture, singing, preaching of the Word, and observing the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper—is primarily meant to build up the church body, edifying them and equipping them for the work of the ministry (which includes evangelism, among other things).
Niefuwhof strongly implies that church attendence has no real benefit outside of evangelism (other than to serve in the church so others can come for the sole purpose of evangelism).
After reading this article, I would want to ask the author: Does hearing the preaching of the Word not benefit believers? Is not living life together with other Christians commanded in Scripture? Do Christians not still need the truth of the Gospel in their daily walk with Christ?
Biblical Reasons to Go to Church
The fact that Scripture was not cited in this article on the importance of church life is concerning. When we look at what the Bible has to say about the purpose of the church, we come up with many reasons that we should attend.
Here are a few of the Bible’s reasons to attend church each week:
1. Because Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). I want to be a part of the body of Christ, the only institution the Lord founded.
2. To worship God! There is a reason we call it a worship service. We gather together to praise our Lord and Savior, and corporate worship is an essential part of any healthy Christian’s life. We go to church to worship God, and we worship Him for the fact that “he is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100).
3. To grow in our own faith.: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
4. To help others grow in theirs.: Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
5. To hear the Word of God preached. The church’s leaders are commanded in Scripture to: “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13); “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Hearing the Word strengthens our faith, and “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (1 Tim 3:16).
Of course, there are many, many aditional good reasons to attend church. I didn’t even mention the command to participate in communion, the significance of baptism, the importance of corporate prayer, or the spiritual soul care and accountability that should be a part of every healthy church!
The above is enough to realize that the two reasons given by Nieufwhof are woefully inadequate to convince someone that attending church still makes sense. Worse still, it seems to be a tragic misundrestanding of what the church is and the purpose God has for it.
So yes, attending church still makes sense. Be a part of your local church, and do heed Nieuwhof’s caution against simply sitting in the back row and avoiding all else. Be a part of your church, for the good of your own soul and to help lead others into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.