The Sunday morning alarm goes off. You roll over to hit snooze. Then, a thought pops into your head.
Maybe I will skip church today.
Sunday morning attendance at traditional church services has significantly dropped in the last few years, according to Pew Research Center. They reported that one in five adults in the U.S. claim to attend religious services less now compared to before the pandemic. And almost one-third of young adults report going to a church service less frequently today as stated by the American Survey Center.
What implications does this drop in Sunday morning church attendance have? Could a strong, godly community serve as a supplement or replacement for attending Sunday morning services?
Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus say, “You must go to church.” So, where does this concept of church as a requirement come from?
The Bible does not explicitly command Christians to attend a physical church building, and Scripture’s definition of the Church often leads to a different focus — community.
“The church is not beneficial because it is the church, it is beneficial because we become immersed in a community of support, encouragement, and ministry,” Norman said. “Jesus may not demand that you attend church, but that does not mean he does not ask you to participate.”
Throughout Scripture, Jesus highlights the necessity of godly community. From the very beginning of Genesis, God saw it was not good for Adam to be alone, so He gave him Eve to start this community.
As they multiplied the Earth, the opportunity for increased community continued to expand. In this expansion, God’s presence never left those who sought community with Him.
Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
In the garden, the Creator of the universe established this concept because He knew it was necessary, and He continued to emphasize it throughout the Bible.
Paul reminded the Hebrews of this fundamental practice. He motivated them to challenge and love each other by meeting together and cautioned any who might neglect those habits.
Photo Credits by Alexis Brown for Unsplash
Jesus also stressed the purpose of godly community. Living in community serves many purposes. For example, Galatians 6:2 exhorts us to carry one another’s burdens.
One way this custom is observed outside of the institutional church is by offering verbal support and physical presence if a friend is going through something that is painful or challenging. These actions demonstrate care and share the weight.
Another purpose of living in godly community is to provide a space to confess sins and pray for one another as James 5:16 encourages. Whether one has committed a sin against a friend or is looking for accountability to overcome a sin, confession and prayer bring light so healing and growth can take place.
Proverbs 27:17 also describes how believers need to sharpen one another. Sharpening one another requires an abundance of humility since no one is perfect.
Pointing out sins is necessary for growth, and in a safe God-honoring community, space is created for challenging one another to be more like Christ.
And finally, one of the primary purposes of a godly community is to share the good news of the gospel as Jesus commands in Mark 16:15.
Sharing what Christ has done and the impact He has made enables others to join a community of life. Ultimately, it brings them into the family of God which will last forever.
Jesus set the example of what living in a community looks like when He spent time with His disciples. Their time together was personal, prayerful and purposeful. It led to growth.
Stephen J. Nichols, president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries, wrote, “Like a branch that grows because of its connection to the tree, we thrive when we stay connected to the church.”
Photo by William White for Unsplash
Barbara Dalby, a 79-year-old wife and homemaker in Pennsylvania, shared how she was purposeful in her time apart from a church.
“I maintained fellowship with a group of believers of like faith.” Dalby said. “We met together weekly for Bible study, prayer and worship.”
Many believers like Dalby experience joy as they meet together. And this joy points to one of the results of godly community that Jesus revealed.
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Psalm 133:1 says
Not only can the presence of community encourage and uplift believers but unbelievers as well.
Andreas Köstenberger, theologian, author and editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, wrote, “Community, as a network of Christ-honoring relationships, puts his attributes on display before a watching world.”
Though attendance in the local structure of church may be declining, God’s kingdom will always increase when His children seek to meet with one another and exemplify the community Jesus established.
How might you seek time with the body of Christ this week? While it may be intimidating to connect with community, be courageous and recognize the necessity, purpose and fruit that flows from it.