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...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
(Hebrews 10:25 – ESV)
(Hebrews 10:25 – ESV)
Do you have to go to church to be a Christian? The answer to this is simple, but the reality of what this question is trying to point out isn’t as simple as it may seem, because many are not focusing on what is really meant by this question. To simply answer the question, then, do you have to go to church to be a Christian? The answer is no.
However, lets now propose a different, more pointed question that actually gets to the heart of the matter. Do you have to go to church when you are a Christian? The answer is yes. Lets state them together, so that you may think about this, and begin to realize where we are going next. Do you have to go to church to BE a Christian? No. Do you have to go to church WHEN you’re a Christian? Yes.
Now people can get all up in arms about this statement, but what they are doing is focusing on the legal aspect of it, not the spiritual aspect of it, and they fail to recognize that their spiritual lives will indeed suffer if they are not in church. Period. God knows it, everyone else knows it, and you know it.
What many people fail to realize is the benefit of just being there. It is very much like when I counsel couples; I always get them to commit to praying together at night before they go to bed. I am sure many of them wonder why this is so important. They probably feel like this exercise, as they might call it, has little chance of actually helping them.
However, what they are doing in their fleshly minds is trying to reason out why this is valuable inherently, and come to believe that the prayers won’t solve anything. They are looking at the prayers as some sort of vehicle that will magically deliver a message or some innate power that will get them to the next level. The answer isn’t always in the prayer by itself, it is that we honor God by doing it, and then He begins to line up the events and situations that will help us overcome the obstacles.
People are looking at the prayer itself, and wondering, what can that possibly do, I need money right now, or I need this or that to stop happening, or I need a job. It isn’t that He will give you a message right then and there, that this and this is what you should do, though He may, it is that this and this will start happening, all in response to your obedience to worship God and honor Him with prayer. You are leaving it on Him, in a way. You are coming in to His presence, as a couple, and the mere fact that you do this, becoming more intimately involved with God together, is why God becomes more intimately involved in your situation.
Church is the same way. The message may not have all that jazz for you in your mind, and the music may not move you as much as what is in your CD player right now, but that is only part of the plan God has for church. If you will just submit to God and commit, really now, to the local church, God will commit to your local lives. When you miss church you are not simply missing the message, you are missing the method.
The leading God gives is not only through the probing eye of the pastor, and not only through the community of believers assembled there, it is also just by attending yourself, in that God will then attend to your wants as you have attended to what He wants. Participating in church precipitates the providence and provision of God. When you open the doors of your will, then God will open the doors of your opportunity.