“I can worship God anywhere under the clear blue sky.” Maybe you’ve heard this statement before. Or, maybe you’ve said this before. I have heard this statement a number of times, typically from someone giving me an excuse for why they don’t or won’t go to church. This sentiment, I can worship anywhere, is absolutely true, but is clearly a total misunderstanding of what church really is. It is the result of disillusionment with the church and a false belief that the church exists only as a place of worship, and is therefore irrelevant.
There are a number of purposes defined in scripture for the church. Worship is definitely one of them. There are however many more purposes for the church and reasons to be engaged in the local church. Acts chapter 2 verses 40-47 are of primary importance in our understanding of the purposes of the church. The description there is of the church worshiping God, fellowshipping, ministering as they met the needs of others, telling others of the good news of Jesus Christ, and training men and women in an understanding of the ‘Apostles doctrine’.
The church is not intended to be a place a bunch of stuffy people go to feel good about themselves simply because they attended church this week. Nor is it intended to be a place where worship is the only purpose. We are engaged in the local church today for the very same reasons those early Christians were in Acts 2. One’s relationship to the church is no different than any other relationship should be. Biblically relationships are designed for us as an outlet, not an inlet. That is to say that we are not in a relationship for what we can get out of it, but ought to be in a relationship so that we might contribute. Scripture declares that we, as believers, are all members of one body with differing gifts given to us so that we might edify others. We go to church and belong to a church because it is God’s place designed for us to be able to worship, fellowship, minister, evangelize, and learn.
Worship is the act of man in response to the love of God as a direct reflection of our heart’s desire to glorify God. It is intended to be an offering, something we give to God, not something we get. It would be naïve to say that you have to go to church to worship, but it is equally naïve to say that the only reason to go to church is to worship.
Christian fellowship is essential to the life of every Christian, and that is how God designed it. God has purposed us with the work of edifying, encouraging, uplifting, and loving others. That is not possible if we are forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. This assembling does not have to be at church either, but church services are excellent times to be exposed to others who you can encourage and who can encourage you.
The ministry of the church is really the ministry of the people. We are told to, and see the example in scripture of, ministering to others. Ministry is meeting the needs of others; physical, emotional, or spiritual. Local church ministry is the tangible way that the love of Christ is shown through us. We do not minister to others while avoiding them by avoiding church.
Those who claim to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior are well aware that salvation offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important thing anyone will ever hear and understand. So, with that attitude concerning the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, we are expected to share with others what we know to be true concerning man’s sinful condition, the results of our sin, and the salvation from the penalty of sin offered through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. This purpose of the church is expected to be carried out through the ministry of the church, which is the ministry of the people.
Teaching sound doctrine is a purpose of the church. Teaching Bible truth is known as discipleship. It is the reason churches have preaching on Sundays, Sunday Schools, Devotionals during mid-week prayer meeting, men’s and women’s Bible studies, Vacation Bible Schools, etc. The early church was being taught by the Apostles. They were being established in the Word of Truth. There was, through this teaching, a foundation being built that could not be shaken because the Word of God is unshakeable.
Yes, we can worship God from anywhere. But, to say that that is an excuse for not being engaged in the ministry, fellowship, evangelism, and discipleship of the local church is to deny the truth of God’s Word and the plan of God for you.