I’m a pastor, and so the goal of writing a blog post that gives anybody an excuse to attend church less is pretty far down my “to do” list. With that said, however, I would like for us to have a healthy, reasonable talk on the subject of church attendance through the ages. To do this, we need to consider the subject in light of the totality of scripture.
Consider the following facts:
- Adam, Eve, and all the other saved believers from the pre-flood age never went to church.
- Noah and all the other saved believers from the early years of the post-flood age never went to church.
- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the other saved believers from that family line never went to church.
- The Israelites, who consisted of the 12 tribes that came from Jacob’s 12 sons, spent 400 years as slaves in Egypt and never went to church.
- Moses led the Israelites out of their bondage in Egypt and imparted to them God’s law — part of which commanded the building of a Tabernacle, the offering up of sacrifices, and the keeping of a weekly Sabbath day as a day of rest — but neither Moses nor any of the other saved believers from the time of Moses went to church.
- Joshua led the Israelites in their conquest of the land of Canaan, but neither he nor any other saved believers from that time went to church.
- Following Joshua’s death, Israel was led by various Judges — men who ruled over limited areas of Israel during certain times — but no saved believer in the days of the book of Judges went to church.
- The prophet Samuel served as the transitional figure between the time period of Israel’s Judges and the centuries when the nation was ruled over by kings, but neither Samuel nor any of Israel’s kings went to church.
- Following the death of King Solomon, who had built a Temple in Jerusalem to replace the Tabernacle as the center of Israel’s worship, the nation underwent a civil war and split into two kingdoms (the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel), but no saved believer from either kingdom went to church.
- Despite the dire warnings of impending judgment made by God’s prophets to the northern kingdom (Israel), the kingdom was ultimately conquered by the Assyrians and in the wake of that ceased to be a kingdom, but through all of that no saved believer from that northern kingdom went to church.
- Despite the dire warnings of impending judgment made by God’s prophets to the southern kingdom (Judah), the kingdom was ultimately conquered by the Babylonians, with a large percentage of the citizens being deported to Babylon to spend the next 70 years there in exile, but no saved believer during those years in Babylon went to church.
- Persia, in the aftermath of their defeat of the Babylonians, allowed a remnant of the exiles of Judah to return to Jerusalem, rebuild the city’s walls, rebuild the city’s temple, and restore Israel’s worship according to the dictates of the Mosaic law, but none of that involved any saved believers going to church.
- There is a gap of approximately 400 years between the last page of the Old Testament and the first page of the New Testament, but no saved believer who lived during those centuries went to church.
- During the 33 years of Jesus’ life on earth, He attended local Jewish synagogues each Sabbath (Saturday), but neither Jesus nor any of the saved believers who lived during His days went to church.
- Following the Rapture, the world will undergo a seven-year Tribulation period, with millions of people getting saved during those years, but there is no mention in scripture of any of those saved believers going to church.
- Following the Tribulation period, Jesus will return to walk this earth again, and He will reign over the whole earth for 1,000 years, but no one during those 1,000 years will go to church.
- Following the close of Christ’s 1,000 year reign, the saved believers from all of history will spend eternity in the heavenly city of New Jerusalem, but there won’t be any church attendance during eternity.
The point I’m trying to get across here is that church attendance is exclusively for a limited era of history. The so-called “church age” began on the day of Pentecost that is described in Acts 2:1-47, and it will end at the moment of the Rapture that is described in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. As of today that age has been running for some 2,000 years, and while that’s certainly a long time, it’s still a minority era in terms of history. Keep in mind that the Old Testament age (the pre-church age) lasted for approximately 4,000 years, and the post-church age will last for nothing less than eternity.
Therefore, what we are left with are two undeniable truths about church attendance. First, if church attendance was the end-all-be-all measure of a person’s salvation, surely God would have begun it with Adam and Eve as opposed to beginning it 4,000 years into human history. But, second, since us saved believers are currently living in such a unique time of history — a time in which church attendance is prescribed as an importance means of serving the Lord — we should appreciate the opportunity to attend church as being the historically rare jewel it is.
You see, Christian, we get to do something the likes of Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and John the Baptist didn’t get to do, and that’s pretty amazing when we get right down to it. This doesn’t mean that our church attendance experience will always be ideal or everything we’d like it to be. (If you’ve been to church more than once you know this is true.) It does mean, though, that church attendance will always matter in the life of the Christian.
As with most everything else about serving God, church attendance requires a balanced perspective. Attending church doesn’t make you a saved believer any more than walking into a garage makes you a car, but church attendance does provide blessings that we Christians simply can’t find at the lake, the park, the ball field, or sitting on the couch watching a preacher on television. And the hard, cold, blunt truth of the matter is that this will never change. That is, at least, until the moment of the Rapture.