This is the second article in this series. We begin the series by discussing how as a new Christian we are eager to learn about Christ. We want nothing more than to be the best disciple we can be. Teach us and we will follow.
Unfortunately, many things we hear about the faith aren’t necessarily scriptural. They may be good practices, but “thus sayeth the Lord” they are not.
To make matters worse, some of the things we hear that are not scriptural have been taught as if they are the law of the Lord. If we don’t follow them, we are not faithful Christians.
Let’s talk about a second such teachings. Before we do, let’s remember the intent of this series. We are not saying the teachings we will discuss aren’t good practices to follow as a Christian. We are saying however, there is not a mandate or a command for these teachings. These are not some principles that if you are not doing them, you are somehow less than a Christian. Sinner. Shame on you.
For example, as we discussed in the first article of this series, “You must read your Bible every day.” Great idea. Good habit. But Jesus didn’t say it. From a Biblical perspective, considering in the days of the Bible very few people had access to even a fragment of the Bible, the teaching lacks merit.
So let's talk about another teaching that lacks merit.
You must go to church every Sunday
Before we begin, this is a big subject. Covering it fully can’t be done in a blog-post. I am going to summarize a lot here and only provide some key thoughts.
First, a command to go to church every Sunday certainly will not be found in the Old Testament for obvious reasons. The Jews didn’t worship on Sunday in the Christian concept of worship. The command to keep the Sabbath day holy doesn’t apply here. The Sabbath was Saturday. Keeping it holy had to do with resting and not working. It didn’t have anything to do with going to church. In fact, if you walked too far to get to the place of worship, you might be sinning. So let’s not try to apply that command to Christian worship on Sunday.
Second, Jesus never commanded his disciples to go to church every Sunday. Jesus did go to the synagogue on the Sabbath as was his custom. Jesus didn’t do that out of obedience to some law. He went because he wanted to be about his father’s business. He wanted to be where the word of God was proclaimed and discussed. And, once again, the Sabbath was a Saturday.
Third, the disciples never instructed anyone to go to church every Sunday. It is true the early church gathered on the first day of the week as it was the day they recognized as when Jesus was resurrected. But if you read the Book of Acts, the early church gathered every day.
There are also the directions given to the Gentile church in the book of Acts. Of the things the disciples discerned regarding what to tell the Gentile church they should do, going to church every Sunday wasn’t mentioned. You would think that if Sunday morning attendance was so critical, they would have mentioned it.
While the Apostle Paul taught the importance of not forsaking the gathering with one another as Christians, Sunday wasn’t what he was thinking about. Paul was concerned about the importance of encouraging, strengthening, and bonding as the body of Christ as they gathered regardless of what day of the week they met.
Once again, is it good to gather every Sunday for worship? Certainly. There is incredible benefit in gathering with other Christians for worship, teaching, and growing in the body of Christ. If Sunday is the only day your church gathers, don’t forsake gathering with them. By all means, go! But go because you want to praise God, learn from Jesus, and participate in the body of Christ, not because you think there is a command that you must go or you are somehow sinning if you don't go.
Why would I even write such an article?
I write such an article because I have met too many people who have bailed out on faith because somewhere or another they came to believe that unless they went to church every single Sunday, they were somehow unworthy and a sinner.
Seriously, I have met people whose employment kept them from going every weekend. Rather than meeting with Christians when they could, they abandoned it altogether. They had heard most of their life that they should be in church every Sunday and if they weren’t, they should be ashamed of themselves. The rhetoric from the church was always about Sunday attendance.
Wouldn’t it be great if we stressed weekday obedience to the teachings of Jesus as much as we do making sure people are in our pews!
I believe God is more pleased with a person who misses a Sunday every now and then but lives faithfully every day of the week more than a person who goes to church every Sunday but doesn’t live faithfully the rest of the week.
One step further, I believe the person who misses a few Sundays but practices their faith every day of the week will grow in their faith more than a person who doesn’t miss a Sunday but doesn’t do anything else Jesus says during the week.
I have had people apologize to me for missing Sunday but rarely do people apologize for not caring for the poor, not feeding the hungry, not clothing the naked, not caring for the stranger, or holding a grudge, or talking bad about someone, or not telling others about Jesus, or not doing the many of the other things Jesus tells us to do. Quite frankly, I would rather they do the things Jesus said, than come to church every Sunday. I love them. I like seeing them in church. But obedience to what Jesus actually says we are to do is far more important than me seeing them every Sunday.
Sure, go to church every Sunday if you want. It is great. It is important to faith development as part of the body, but it is not a command. Loving others and following Jesus is a command, however. Jesus made certain to tell us that.
If you miss a Sunday or two here and there, don't let it cripple your faith. And by all means, don't cripple another's faith by telling them they are a sinner if they aren't sitting in church every single Sunday. It is not biblical, nor is it true.