Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Over the years, I have struggled to understand the argument from the statement, “I do not need to go to church.” For the first time in our living history over the past two years, we had to cope with the church saying, “stay home on Sundays.” Although that ended up being a short-lived statement, it was profoundly impactful to our faith. Prior to COVID-19, there was a growing movement within Christianity that gathering to worship was not needed. An online article titled “Relax Christian, You Don’t Have to Go to Church” by John Pavlovitz argues that Christians do not need to go to church.1 His arguments are not at all common. He says that the bible does not speak about church as a building. He argues that God’s sanctuary can be anywhere. The challenge in his argument is there is no biblical bases for it. It rings strongly on the American view of the independent person that is so common in our society and western civilization. Pavlovitz’s argument is not the only one out there, and many websites and books say make similar claims. They are not new claims at all. What scripture is clear on is that the church is the Body of Christ, which is found in the institute of the physical gathering of believers.
During the reformation, many claimed the same argument, and Martin Luther responded to them about it. He writes, “But to give a Christian interpretation to the simple people of what God requires of us in this commandment (Referring to the third commandment), note that we do not observe holy days for the sake of intelligent and well-informed Christians, for they have no need of them. We observe them, first, because our bodies need them. Nature teaches and demands that the common people—menservants and maidservants who have gone about their work or trade all week long—should also retire for a day to rest and be refreshed. Second and most important, we observe them so that people will have time and opportunity on such days of rest, which otherwise would not be available, to attend worship services, that is, so that they may assemble to hear and discuss God’s Word and then to offer praise, song, and prayer to God.”2 People argued, the church was not necessarily and not required. Luther argues that it is necessary, and as Christians, it is asked of us to do in Holy Scripture.
The Apostle Paul, John, and the writer of Hebrews make one of the strongest arguments, Hebrews 10;22-25: “22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”3 1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.”4 Eph 4:16. “16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”5 The lists of scripture making this argument can go on, the repeated gathering together, fellowship with one another, held together, meeting together, and so on. Not only gathering together, but it is also through the worship service that we receive in the gifts of the Sacraments, we participate in the baptism of new believers and the Lord’s Supper to give us a spiritual renewal of the church.
So with a biblical and theological foundation, we understand that the argument “I do not need to go to church” is a spiritual hoax that Satan and his demons have put into words of the unfaithful. To draw us away from each other, so our faith in God can become deteriorated. The one thing we can do to change that is actually to return to corporate worship. This is my prayer that we start to see how much the world around us has told us that we no longer need God, faith, and worship. But we do, we need it because God gave it to us. So “I do need to go to church” is the appropriate statement of a Christian. I hope to see you this Saturday or Sunday.
1 Pavlovitz, J. (2018, September 9). “Relax Christian, you don’t have to go to Church.” John Pavlovitz. Retrieved October 18, 2022, from https://johnpavlovitz.com/2016/09/04/relax-christian-you-dont-have-to-go-to-church/
2 Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 396.
3,4,5 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Heb 10:22–25., 1 Jn 1:7. Eph 4:16