Of course, with some churches—the big ones with three or four services every Sunday and another on Saturday—it’s neither feasible nor expected that a member attend every service. But attending the services most churches offer places no real burden on one’s schedule. Many people grew up in households that required church attendance: “When the doors were open, we were there!” Such testimonies are rarer today, as church attendance in general is declining.
Does a Christian have to attend every service his church provides? The simple answer is “no.” There is no New Testament command for believers to maintain perfect attendance at church. Attending every church service does not make a person “holier” than the one who misses a service here and there. Our relationship with God is not based on rule-following or punching a time clock at church; it’s based on our position in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2). The question that matters in eternity is not “How many times was I in church” but “Did I truly know Jesus Christ?” (Matthew 7:21–23).
However, there is a problem with having a nonchalant attitude toward church attendance. We should not be ambivalent in the matter. God’s plan in this age involves the church, which Jesus promised to build (Matthew 16:18), and we should be supporting God’s plan enthusiastically.
“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24–25). It’s interesting that, even in the early church, there were those who made a “habit” of not fellowshipping with other believers. Their example is not to be followed. The church is where our spiritual gifts best edify the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11–12), and it is difficult to “spur” each other to love and good works if we are not attending church. How can we encourage one another if we’re never around one another?
Christians should be committed to their local church, involved in their local church, and supportive of their local church. This requires regular church attendance. A believer will naturally love his brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 4:21), and that love will manifest itself in a desire to fellowship, not avoidance. When the church is praising the Lord, all believers should want to join in the praise; when the church is praying for others, all believers should want to join in the prayer; when the church is studying the Word, all believers should want to join in the learning.
We live in a world of distractions. So many things call us away from our commitments, our involvement, and our support of the local church: sports activities, work schedules, community projects, etc.—the list is never-ending. There are valid reasons for missing a church service, and we must avoid legalism in such matters. At the same time, we should make sure absences are the exception, not the rule. Each believer should examine his own heart to determine his motives for missing church. It could be that a rearrangement of priorities is in order.