For several years, Gallup polls have painted the same picture regarding church attendance in America. Gallup polls reflect American church attendance right at 40 percent. Most of this information is gathered by talking to people and asking them about their habits.
There have been further studies done recently which do not depend upon asking people about their church attendance but rely upon actual attendance numbers or “people in the seats” on any given Sunday. When taking these numbers into account and compare them to the population of America, it is found that the number of Americans who attend church regularly is closer to 17.7 percent.(Studies reported by ChurchLeaders.com)
Quite a disparity between the two. I have a tendency to rely on actual head counts to tell us the correct story rather than someone’s guilty response or good intentions.
There are reasons why God wants us to stay connected to the church.
God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. Ephesians 1:22-23
First, the Bible calls the church His body. This means for us to be healthy spiritually and functioning according to our purpose we need to be a part of His body. When was the last time you saw a thumb or an eyeball rolling down the sidewalk? You haven’t! There’s a reason for that:
Disconnected from the rest of the body we lose our connection to life, health, and even purpose. What purpose does an eye have separated from the body? Is it still an eye? Yes. But without the body, it has no reference for what it sees, if it can see at all! Once a body part is separated from the body, death sets in. It may look the same at the beginning of its separation but soon it will begin to wither and eventually die. After the entire process of separation reaches its finality, you are left with nothing but bones – dry and lifeless. A scientist can tell what the bone “was” at one time; even a child can sometimes recognize what the part “was.” But in the end it only reminds you of something that once was alive and is now dead. I’m not the whole body, but I am a part and so are you. You bring something unique to the church and your part is important. A human eye separated from the body has lost reference for life. So have I separated from the body of Christ.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27
Second, God’s plan for His people was always to worship together corporately. No corporate worship is not the only worship, but corporate worship was never to be abandoned. In the days of Israel’s beginning as a nation God directed them to find the place that He designated to put His name and to gather there for worship at the appointed times.
Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go. Deuteronomy 12:2-5
There was and is accountability in corporate worship – to stay true to the Word of God. Once people begin to worship exclusively at home or wherever, it is much easier to change, alter or ignore aspects of the Word that are uncomfortable or not easy to follow. Individualistic worship is the ideal environment for corrupted worship.
And 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
I know that the church is not yet perfected. But according to scripture, it is not to be abandoned! If we remain together we have the opportunity to have all the gifts of the Spirit operating. Where all the gifts are operating we find wisdom, access to things we can’t naturally know, faith to move mountains, healing of all kinds of disease and discomfort, miracles, insight into the future, discernment of motives, and heavenly insight and worship. (1 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Who wouldn’t put up with some challenges to have access to that?
Henri Louwen wrote:
“Listen to the church,” he writes in Show Me the Way (Crossroad). “I know that isn’t a popular bit of advice at a time and in a country where the church is frequently seen more as an ‘obstacle’ in the way rather than as the ‘way’ to Jesus. Nevertheless, I’m profoundly convinced that the greatest spiritual danger for our times is the separation of Jesus from the church. The church is the body of the Lord. Without Jesus, there can be no church; and without the church, we cannot stay united with Jesus. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has come closer to Jesus by forsaking the church. To listen to the church is to listen to the Lord of the church.”