Why Gather?

And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25 

“But you don’t have to go to church to go to Heaven,” said Tim, who had been at Brother Bryan Rescue Mission for two months before declaring this in my weekly theology class. The chapter title for that day’s discussion was “The Importance of the church,” which everyone in class was eager to nod in agreement with, maybe even an 1amen. However, each man in the class proceeded to tell me they haven’t been to a church in 5, 10, or some even 20 years. Unholy cognitive dissonance, Batman. There seems to be a disconnect here, but if I’m honest it’s the same disconnect I also had early in my adult life.

Is the church really that important? I mean, isn’t it really just about having a personal relationship with Jesus? Why does church matter to my internal, relational experience with God? Plus, Tim had accepted Jesus into his heart, so he knows he won’t have to suffer in hell for eternity. Hasn’t he accomplished the outcome church is designed to achieve – assurance of heavenly ever after? What more could we ask of the church once I finally ascend to and believe the Gospel?

Covid-19 has temporarily altered worship for millions of Christians around the world, and especially in the United States. With streaming services and Zoom proliferating, the relevancy of this topic cannot be overstated. How we understand what church is will greatly impact churchgoing well into the future. More pointedly, it will impact the spiritual lives of Christians well into the future. What do we call the streaming platforms? Are they “church” or something else? It appears some churches, especially in the West, have forgotten some paramount reasons for faithful attendance to a local church. I must confess that I did not hold the church in high regard during the early years of owning my faith. I had not forgotten the reasons for the church; I never actually knew them. I had always been told that the church was vital for spiritual health, but I was never taught why the church was vital for spiritual growth. Through failures, triumphs, time, seminary, ministry, and most of all, the church, I have come to believe the Christian life is impossible apart from the church.

This is the first of what I hope to be a series of blog posts for Tactical Faith to share some of the things I have learned through life, ministry, and Scripture regarding the importance of the church. Here is a list of some of the topics I want to cover in those post:

  • • Okay, maybe going to church is important, but how do I know I’m in a healthy one?
  • What is the church?
  • What does the church have to do with me and my Bible?
  • I know theology, so how does the church impact that?
  • How do we actually have “relationship with Christ,” and what role does the church play in it?
  • I have Christians in my family and at my job, so why do I have to fellowship at the church?

I’m going to share from Scripture, history, theology, and some personal experiences in order to share my thoughts on these questions. I believe that the church is the greatest source of hope for the trying times we are facing now and those to come. I hope this is a dialogue in which you feel free to ask questions and to share comments. The questions and feedback will spur us on to think rightly about the local church, which should lead to the glorification of God. Footnote: In this essay, “church” is not capitalized. I will address the difference in “church” and “Church” in a subsequent essay.

1 In this essay, “church” is not capitalized. I will address the difference in
“church” and “Church” in a subsequent essay.