” For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” – Matthew 18:20.
I get it. The church never closed. The church is the people, not the building. But the doors to the church facilities closed. The opportunity to gather for worship in person closed. A lot has transpired over the past 18 months. Covid-19 upended churchgoing in the US as churches faced declining attendance as public gatherings were put on hold. Many believers turned to various forms of technology holding gatherings on Zoom. There is nothing wrong with finding creative ways to minister to one another in times when the church is scattered. The bottom line is that whenever possible we should meet with other believers.
The Bible emphasizes the importance of the local church. Picture the nation of Israel, rescued from Egypt and gathered together at Mt. Sinai to hear God’s law. Moses later referred to that important moment as “the day of assembly” Deuteronomy 9:10 says, “The Lord gave me two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God. On them were all the commandments the Lord proclaimed to you on the mountain out of the fire, on the day of the assembly.” At other key junctures in Israel’s history, the nation similarly gathered as an “assembly” before their covenant Lord (Judges 20:2, 1 Kings 8:14, 1 Chronicles 28:8). After the four gospels, almost all of the New Testament is about the local church or directed to the local church. Throughout the New Testament, different local congregations met together and worshipped together. Paul uses phrases like “when you meet as a church” and “the whole church comes together” (1 Corinthians 11:18; 14:23 NIV). Paul and the other Apostle’s letters were actually sent to these church communities that gathered in various cities to be read aloud together.
We need the community found in the church. All of us long for community and connection with others. God has given us this gift in gathering together for church, and in smaller groups in each other’s homes. It fulfills something inside of us to do life with others, encourage each other and be authentically involved in each other’s lives. Christian podcasts, books, and conferences are wonderful additions to our spiritual lives, but nothing can take the place of a consistent Christian community through the local church.
We grow more spiritually when we gather together at church, then we can all by ourselves. It can be scary and messy when we step into each other’s lives. We are all human, and no one is perfect. So it requires effort and intentionality and grace from God to do life together, even as believers. Gathering regularly with other believers becomes a refining process where we help each follow Christ more wholeheartedly. Showing up to church is serving others; to gather is to encourage. How could it be otherwise? You cannot regularly encourage those you only sporadically see.
The hurricane and the pandemic and quarantine have been transformational moments for our world and our churches. We now have the incredible opportunity to gather and continue our mission of helping the whole world find and follow Jesus.
- Why is gathering as a church important in your view?
- What changes do we need to make to attend church regularly?