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  • Writer's pictureMegan Estes

Do I Have to Go to Church?

Updated: Feb 3

What is church? Why do we go to it? Do I really have to be a part of one as a follower of Christ? These are questions I've heard debated and personally have pondered and wrestled with throughout the years. I've listened as believers have passionately shared their frustration with non-church-going believers. I've also seen others use the brokenness within the Body of Christ as an excuse in which not to participate in any church. So what is the answer? What does God say about church? What counts as 'church' and do I have to go? The answer is, "yes" and "no."

do i have to go to church

What is Church?

Before we discuss anything further let's look at what the Biblical definition of church is. 'Church' is described as a building where people meet to pray and worship in the dictionary--but this isn't what is shown in scripture. In the Bible it always refers to 'the people who follow Christ' and their gatherings. Jesus said He would build His church on Peter (Matthew 18), Paul says there is one Body (Ephesians 4), the 'churches' were multiplied throughout the land in Acts 9, and at the end of Romans there's even a church meeting in someone's home addressed.

Can we agree that the church is NOT a building?

Can we agree that the church is NOT a 501c3?

Can we agree that the church IS the global fellowship of Jesus followers?

If we can agree with these statements, then the following must be true: Christians who meet together regularly to study, worship, and encourage one another in the faith COUNTS AS CHURCH.

church is the global fellowship of believers

Do I Have to Go to Church?

Yes. While you do not have to be part of the Americanized idea of church that meets in a building weekly you ARE to be engaged as a part of the Body of Christ. This can look different for different families. For some, they might choose to simply gather with another family or two to study the Bible and fellowship together. There's nothing wrong with this! The intimate meals, breaking of bread, and personal discussion is how the church is actually supposed to look! For others, it might look like attending a "brick and mortar" church in town, BUT ALSO gathering regularly with a smaller group of people from that church building to do life with. The key is to be involved in relationship! I do know this to be true: when we neglect meeting together we become self-focused in our faith and lives and miss out on the beauty of biblical community. So do whatever you need to do to find/create a place/people to gather with and build community.

But Then Where Do I Go?

If we only attend a mega church on Sundays where no one knows our names cause we aren't involved at all then we technically have no "church family." We are just hearing a speaker preach the Word and participating in corporate worship--which is important, but not sufficient for our souls that were made for community. Who will be there for us when our marriage is crumbling, when we're struggling to parent, or we are facing waves of depression? Better yet, who would even KNOW that we are in crisis if we are just a face in the crowd? The church that is launched in Acts is about radical relationship. Meeting one another's needs. Praying and caring for each other. Living in community. This is the kind of church God calls us to be a part of. This cannot be lived out by simply feeding on an hour a week of church in a building. Worse yet--it cannot be fulfilled online. So many believers are missing out on the joy and growth that comes from being part of a living and active Body of Christ because they are satisfied with "watching church" at home in their PJs and neglecting to engage in relationship. Everything Christ lived and taught was along the lines of relationship. Church is community. It is home. It should feel like family. If you've done your part to engage and it still doesn't feel like home then maybe it's time to engage elsewhere.

do i have to go to church, finding a church home

Finding Home

God is moving in all kinds of churches--house churches, small churches, large churches, and even the mega mega churches! However, the key is to make sure that you've found your "church within your church." Do you know what I mean? Currently our family is attending a large sized church. While we're getting to know people on a first name basis and it's starting to feel more like home on Sunday mornings, the real reason it's a good fit for us is because some of our "church within the church" friends go there as well. Our neighbors are our "framily" that I'm blessed to say "live out the Acts 2 model." We share each other's burdens, possessions, and challenge one another to pursue Christ fully. That's the real church I'm a part of. The families we do life with throughout the week are our church family, and for that I am eternally grateful. While I love that my kids are thriving being part of an engaging children's program and youth ministry, and we soak in the teaching and worship on Sunday mornings, I'm truly filled up in my soul from living in this home the last seven years and building together what I consider our "neighborhood church" with life-giving believers. If my framily moved, or we could no longer meet together, we would definitely have to form a lifegroup or some other type of smaller "church within the church" to really live out Acts 2. To be "known" we have to step into a smaller circle and sometimes endure the small talk to get to the deeper soul-filling conversations and relational closeness. This takes time and vulnerability. Don't let the enemy convince you that "if only people knew my struggles they wouldn't love me" or that "I don't need close friendships." God is always using His Body (The Church) to serve and minister to one another, bless each other, and to meet each other's needs. We're blessed to be a blessing--but you gotta join in a community to truly experience this beauty of The Body of Christ.

I love that we are part of a larger church again. It's been so good for our family. I'm thankful to be part of a church service where people preach as Jesus did. There's a time for each time of teaching of the Word. Being relevant with what's happening in our culture, but also not watering down God's Word in any way is preaching grace and truth just as Jesus did. Praise God! Let's be realistic though--wherever people gather so does sin. We know that we are walking into a building as sinners ourselves joining other sinners in worship of the one true God. I'm sure there will be times in the years to come where we question things happening in this Body, or see a different church that might appear "greener." When you're engaged with a "church within a church" family though, you learn to love and serve one another unconditionally. It isn't just about how my needs are met, but rather how I can be a blessing using the gifts God has given me in this church and in this family. Look where you can serve. Look for where you can grow. Right now is not the time for me to be serving on a Sunday morning at this particular church--but it is my husband's. I love his heart for service and desire to help the Body of Christ take ground for the kingdom of God to be built. His heart is to serve wherever needed because he is humbly ready to engage in new relationships here. I'm excited to see how God challenges us in this new church we attend. I'm most excited though to see how our "church within the church" sharpens one another and reaches our neighborhood to bring hope and truth to the hurting families around us.

My prayer for you...

Lord please open the eyes of those reading this today so that they might see how much you love them and how you want to care for them through your Body called 'The Church.' Help them to rid any bitterness they might have towards churches or leaders, and to realize that your heart breaks when people throw mud on your church. We've all experienced church hurt, but you've experienced the worst--being crucified by the ones you came to save. God help these readers find the strength to walk into a biblical community if they aren't attending one right now, and help them find the courage to engage relationally wherever they are at. Forgive us Lord for trying to do life on our own apart from one another, and also apart from you at times. We need you. We need each other. Break our hearts for the things that break yours. Lord, please help these readers find their way into a family and home where they can grow in faith and joy and ultimately glorify you! ~Amen

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