This article was written by Dr. Craig Buseck and published by Focus on the Family
The temptation to replace live church with online settles for a lesser-than version of God’s intention for the local body to gather.
Discover the purpose of church and what it could mean for you.
Have you ever sighed while setting your alarm clock on a Saturday night for church the next morning? After a week of waking up early for school, homework and extracurricular activities, sleeping in on Sunday can sound refreshing. There’s always the option to watch the sermon later online, right? So, why not hit the snooze button?
In certain ways, the digital age is a blessing to the church. It allows believers to watch sermons they may have missed and offers an at-home experience for those who can’t travel to a church building. But as we’ve seen with many aspects of life since the COVID-19 pandemic, substituting online options for in-person gatherings brings a different experience. And often it’s a poor substitute for real connection and community. This reality is the same when it comes to attending church.
Why Do We Go to Church?
Imagine sitting in the front row at a concert. You experience the crowd’s excitement, feel the booming speakers and hear an arena filled with people singing at the top of their lungs. Now instead of attending the concert, imagine you decide to watch the show on a phone. While you might be grateful to view the event, there’s no denying the difference between the two experiences.
Likewise, the temptation to replace a local community with online recordings settles for a lesser-than version of God’s intention for the church. God’s purpose for the local body is to gather.
According to Scripture, the church is the local body of believers saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is God’s creation. He builds it, provides for it and protects it (Matthew 16:18). Paul even mentions that Jesus died for the church and often refers to it as His bride (Ephesians 5:25). Clearly, God loves His church!
After Jesus ascended back into heaven, the body of believers beautifully embodied God’s design for the church. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). This example defines the purpose of the church today.
The Purpose of the Church
Attending a local church allows believers to worship and study sound teaching with other Christians. It is where we gather to celebrate salvation through symbols such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Discipleship groups foster fellowship with like-minded believers who can pray with us, hold us accountable and encourage us in our walk with Christ. Additionally, the church provides opportunities to serve our communities and spread the Gospel.
Maybe you have a knack for hospitality and like to make others feel welcomed. Perhaps you have a desire to organize service projects through your church. Or you might have awesome leadership abilities. You can be certain that the Holy Spirit equipped you with unique gifts to help grow the church. And He wants to use you to encourage and equip other believers.
You’ll never know how the Lord will use you for His glory. So, don’t let fear keep you from building His church. It is our privilege to be part of a local body. But we lose out on exalting God’s glory as a community when we confine our church attendance to an online experience or choose not to participate.
Get Plugged In
Do you want to get involved in a church but aren’t sure where to begin? Here are a few next steps depending on your current involvement:
Start attending weekly services. Or tag along with a friend who’s already plugged into a church. Then, as you become more comfortable, consider joining a youth group. It’s much more enjoyable to do life alongside other believers.
Serve in an area of your church. If you love the squeals of toddlers, ask the children’s director if you can volunteer in the children’s ministry. Or perhaps the Lord has given you a beautiful singing voice, which could help lead others into worship. Your spiritual gifts and passions are no coincidence. You have the opportunity to use them for the Lord’s glory.
Focus on missions. Jesus calls believers to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Your next act of obedience might be mission-oriented. Maybe you’ve felt called to go on a mission trip to share the Gospel, or perhaps you could start with praying for missionaries throughout the world.
Attending a local church requires time and energy, but the benefits are worth it. When Christ-followers meet for Gospel-centered teaching, worship, community and mission, the church magnifies the beauty and power of Christ Jesus in the world. And you have a hand-picked role in the church to help accomplish this mission.