Do We Have to go to Church?

I heard an interesting statistic this morning. Apparently, 80% of Americans identify themselves as Christian though only 20% attend worship services on a regular basis. This statistic led me to consider how it is that being a Christian has become separated from the worship of God. There are many clues that point towards how this has happened. Let me give one example. You have probably heard it said, “Christianity is a relationship and not a religion”. It is an interesting proposition, one with a long and heretical (Gnostic) pedigree and it is easy to see where this leads. “Having Jesus in my heart is of primary importance, things like worship, preaching and the sacraments are secondary to that, in fact they can even be dispensed with when necessary.” “Necessity” of course being almost completely ambiguous.
Yet, can we say that as Christians we are more or less compelled by Scripture to attend corporate worship? Yes we can and we can go on to argue for “more” than “less”.
Recently, I have been reading G. K .Beale. One of my favorites is an academic work titled “We Become What We Worship, a biblical theology of idolatry”. In it, Beale traces the history and effects of idolatry on the nation of Israel and on the New Israel, the Israel of God, the Church. Beale is not alone in his observations. Other men such as Ricky Watts have made similar ones, but the important point is this: we become what we worship, and I would add everyone worships, like it or not.
This brings me back to my original question and its answer: yes, corporate worship is essential to the Christian life and to eternity for the Christian life is preeminently about becoming like Christ. Worship is central to that and while it may be true that you have Jesus in your heart, it may be the case that apart from engaging in the corporate worship of the Triune God of Scripture that may be another Jesus you have rattling around in your chest.
Yet someone will surely say to me OK, but I still do not need a church to worship. A point I will of course dispute and will dispute it based on 1 Corinthians chapters 10-11, where Paul appeals to the sacramental presence of Jesus in the Old Covenant as a warning against idolatry in the New. In other words, Paul’s warning to the Corinthians is a very good place to argue for the presence of Christ, the Spiritual presence of Christ, during the course of worship. This Spiritual presence forms the image of Christ in us. Of course, the reverse is also true. For there are a diversity of spirits, not all of which are from Christ, though all have the same power to conform.
Next Sunday then ask yourself “Whose image do I profess to bear?” and remember. Actions speak louder than words.

Published by Fr. Rogers Meredith

I am an Anglican Priest Canonically Resident in the Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth , Anglican Church of North America. .

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