According to recent Pew Research data, only 35% of American Christians consider attending religious services as an essential part of their faith.1 Only 28% listed ‘helping out in your congregation’ as essential.
It appears that the majority of self-proclaimed Christians do not know how to answer the question, “Why go to church?”
We can point to several reasons for this: the rise of secularism in society, a celebration of individual autonomy paired with a rejection of institutional faith and authority, and “finding God other places.”
For some Christians, the reason for avoiding church is spiritual, flowing from a lack of understanding the importance of church for spiritual vitality and public witness. Frequency of church attendance is also in decline among weekly attenders and people who attend yearly, presumably on Easter Sunday and Christmas.2
Others claim that they don’t need religion to be “spiritual” or have been so hurt by the church that they swear it off altogether.3 The hurt may be real, but avoiding church will only bring more pain.
Seeing the complacency of many Christians deeply saddens me when I think of brothers and sisters overseas who sacrifice much to gather with God’s people. One pastor our organization trains in Central Asia rents a bus for church services. This isn’t to bus in visitors to their church building—it is their church building—they circle the city late at night in the bus to avoid being caught by the police.
Unfortunately, for many in more comfortable settings, church isn’t a priority. Sleep, your kid’s soccer game, Netflix, football, or the lake house take priority, pushing church to the margins of life—if not out altogether. When we push God’s agenda and people out of our lives, we reap the consequences.
If you are already involved in a church, may the Lord remind you of all of the blessings given to you through His people. If you need a church, scroll down for several online church directories.
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50+ Things You Miss Out On By Not Attending Church
- You miss out on obedience to the command to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25).
- You miss out on loving God in your obedience, and as a result, experiencing Him more deeply (John 14:21).
- You miss out on loving Jesus by loving the bride He laid His life down for (Ephesians 5:25-27; Acts 20:28).
- You miss out on hearing God’s Word faithfully proclaimed, and thus growing in faith (2 Timothy 4:1-2; Romans 10:17).
- You miss out on hearing God’s Word applied specifically to you, your culture, and community (1 Corinthians 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:1-2).
- You miss out on learning how to read the Bible better by sitting under gifted teachers and preachers (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9).
- You miss out on being equipped to discern dangerous and deceitful doctrines that negate or distort the gospel (Ephesians 4:11-14; Galatians 1:6-9).
- You miss out on encouraging others, stirring them toward love and good works, and receiving encouragement from others (Hebrews 10:25).
- You miss out on using your gifts to build up the body of Christ for the glory of God (1 Peter 4:10-11; Ephesians 4:11-14).
- You miss out on being built up by others faithfully using their gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11; Ephesians 4:11-14).
- You miss out on sitting under God’s appointed leadership over you (Ephesians 4:11-14; Hebrews 13:7).
- You miss out on submitting to the leaders God has placed over you, and thus submitting to God (Hebrews 13:17).
- You miss out on being shepherded during the joys and trials of life (James 5:13-14; 1 Peter 5:1-2).
- You miss out on following your pastor’s example (1 Timothy 4:12; Hebrews 13:7; Titus 2:7).
- You miss out on agreeing to be accountable for your actions through church discipline, which is an extension of God’s discipline (Matthew 18:15-17).
- You miss out on performing the ministry of showing up, that is, encouraging others by your presence and commitment (Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 4:32-33).
- You miss out on being equipped for the work of ministry by ministers called by God and the fruitfulness that comes from having been better equipped (Ephesians 4:11-14).
- You miss out on giving and receiving prayers for spiritual growth and personal needs (James 5:16).
- You miss out on receiving the blessing and instruction of corporate prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-2; Acts 6:1-6)
- You miss out on caring for the poor and needy as the church. Or, receiving care if you are needy. (Acts 11:29, 2 Corinthians 8:4, 1 John 3:17.)
- You miss out on serving others and taking your eyes off yourself (Romans 12:9-13).
- You miss out on being in the center of God’s will, which is revealed as we obey and renew our minds in His truth (Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18).
- You miss out on celebrating the gospel through baptism (Romans 6:4).
- You miss out on regular participation in the Lord’s Supper to join saints throughout history to celebrate the saving work of Christ and anticipate His future reign (1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Mark 14:22-25).
- You miss out on practicing the one anothers with brothers and sisters in Christ (John 13:34-35; Ephesians 4:12; Romans 12:10-16; Galatians 5:13; etc.).
- You miss out on corporately singing songs of praise to God (Colossians 3:16).
- You miss out on being a testimony to the gospel’s saving and transforming power to the lost world (John 13:34-35).
- You miss out on uniting across barriers of race and economic status to stand united in the gospel and make friends you wouldn’t ordinarily know (Ephesians 2:11-22; Ephesians 4:3; James 2:1; Revelation 5:9).
- You miss out on speaking the truth in love to other believers believing and/or practicing unbiblical doctrines (Ephesians 4:15-16).
- You miss out on bringing God delight as His gathered people (Zephaniah 3:17; Psalms 149:4).
- You miss out on rejoicing at seeing new brothers and sisters brought to faith (Acts 16:5).
- You miss out on inviting non-Christian friends and family to church to hear about Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Colossians 4:5).
- You miss out on welcoming others as Christ has welcomed you (Romans 15:7).
- You miss out on experiencing how God’s love is perfected in us through His body (1 John 4:12).
- You miss out on allowing God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s people to help you grow in Christ-like maturity (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Psalm 19:7; Ephesians 4:11-14).
- You miss out on experiencing the Holy Spirit dwelling in the fellowship of the church (2 Corinthians 13:14).
- You miss out on receiving continual reminders of your position and identity in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:3-7).
- You miss out on being influenced by godly men and women who love Jesus more than the world, and in turn influencing others (Titus 2:1-8).
- You miss out on seeing how Jesus, the head of the church, works through His body to accomplish His mission in the world (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18).
- You miss out on making your closest friends those who pursue Christ from pure hearts (2 Timothy 2:22).
- You miss out on being reminded to live a God-centered life focused on His plans for the world and your place in them; not the other way around (Ephesians 1:3-7).
- You miss out on understanding with all of the saints the immeasurable love of Christ (Ephesians 3:18).
- You miss out on the opportunity to give to God a tithe or offering from what He has given you (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).
- You miss out on the opportunity to let the Word of Christ dwell richly within you through songs, and hymns, and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16).
- You miss out on bringing joy to your leaders who will give an account for shepherding you (Hebrews 13:17).
- You miss out on sharing in the sufferings of the body of Christ by grieving with those who grieve and bearing one another’s burdens (2 Corinthians 1:3-5; Romans 12:15; Galatians 6:2).
- You miss out on making known God’s wisdom to rulers and authorities in the heavenly places through the church (Ephesians 3:10).
- You miss out on potentially being called by God to vocational ministry (1 Timothy 4:14).
- You miss out on teaching others, in word and deed, how to follow Christ (Titus 2).
- You miss out on visibly demonstrate a growing commitment to Christ and His gospel.
- You miss out on receiving help fighting sin and help others fighting sin (1 Peter 2:11; James 5:16; Galatians 6:1-2).
- You miss out on collectively support missions around the world (Philippians 4:16-17).
- You miss out on seeing how the church is built and strengthened when each member of the body functions as it should, making the body mature by building it up in love (1 Corinthians 12:12-20; Ephesians 4:16).
- You miss out on displaying unity in Christ that both glorifies God and accords with a life changed by the gospel (Ephesians 4:3-6; John 17:22-23).
- And there are so many more you could add…this list serves as a starting point.
Bottom line: we need the church.
When Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, He didn’t say, “Why are you persecuting my church?” He said, “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4, emphasis mine). He so identifies with the church that an attack on His people is an attack on Him.
Could Jesus be saying to you not only, “Why are you avoiding my church?” but also, “Why are you avoiding me?”
My desire is not to force legalistic rules on anybody; rather I hope and pray the Lord will awaken those missing out on church to long for a richer relationship with Him as experienced through a vibrant connection with His body.
Where to go from here
1. Trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the cross to reconcile rebels to God the Father and make a holy people for Himself. Believe in Him and in His plan for you, which includes the church.
2. Study Scripture for a biblical view of the church. I recommend starting in Ephesians. Ephesians does an excellent job unfolding God’s glorious purposes for the church in Christ and brings sense to why God would command for us to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25).
3. Read a book that will stir your heart to love the church. I recommend the following:
- Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck
- What is a Healthy Church Member? Thabiti Anywailbe
- How to Walk into Church by Tony Payne
- Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris
4. If you don’t currently attend a healthy, Bible-preaching church, find one. You may consider searching one of the following church directories: 9Marks, The Gospel Coalition, Sermon Audio, The Gospel Coalition’s Spanish-language directory or IgleRed (Latin America). Or if moving somewhere new, ask your pastor for a recommendation.
5. Get involved. Commit yourself to a Bible-believing congregation, join a Bible study, or even have a more mature saint disciple you—I dare you. Perhaps this is just what you need to get past doubts or weaknesses that plague you in your faith.
6. Pray for the Lord to lead you in how to best participate in your local congregation and bless others with your gifts.
1 “Religion in Everyday Life” from Pew Research.
2 “Church Attendance is Declining” from FamilyFacts.org.
3 And there are churches that you should swear off, mainly churches that reject biblical authority and thereby undermine the gospel.
Special thanks to Brandon Myers. A faithful friend, pastor, and ‘freditor’ (friend + editor) who made this article much stronger. Follow Brandon on Twitter.