Can We Live Without Public Worship?

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” We receive life in Christ (freedom from sin and death, personal communion with the one true God) and eternal life with God by grace through faith, but how do we experience this "life" during our time between now and the grave? Scripture teaches that one essential way we enjoy this abundant life is by gathering on the Lord’s Day with God's people for worship.

This runs contrary to what many people think or say today. These days, even many professing Christians believe that public worship (often referred to as "going to church") is unnecessary. The assumption is that being a Christian is basically an individual thing, and so you don’t need to attend a weekly religious service or be part of a local community of believers with the organization that the New Testament describes.

However, while it is true that these things don’t "make you a Christian," Jesus established them because they are part of God's plan and necessary for significant spiritual growth. In other words, they are essential for abundant "life" in Christ. As believers come together to worship God (through the preaching and reading of God’s Word, praying, singing, confessing sin, giving tithes and offerings, proclaiming aloud together the things we believe, and through the receiving of the Lord’s Supper and baptism), Jesus works in us and transforms us in a way that we simply cannot get on our own.

So yes, we need to "go to church," although it's important to understand that the Bible doesn’t describe “church” as just the worship service, much less the brick and mortar structures that people call "churches." When we see the word “church” in the Bible, the word meant “public assembly.” Jesus then added to the meaning by using the word to describe the covenant community He was establishing and the structure He gave for that community.

In Ephesians 2, the apostle Paul writes, “In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” The believers are the "building." How important is the church to Jesus? Paul says, "Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her." Jesus established (and continues to build) local communities led by qualified men called “elders” (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1) and bearing the marks of that true church as Scriptures describes. Among these marks is God-centered, Christ-exalting worship that believers need in order to "live."

This local covenant community of believers forms a structure that (unlike those made with human hands) has stood and will stand forever, filled with the presence of God and offering Christians the support they need to know God better and get through life. Jesus intended the Christian life to be lived in this way. And as a result, we cannot truly “live” apart from what He established.