Please begin with me by reading Hebrews 10:25.
When I was in high school, I studied the Bible with a girl who knew little about organized religion. She was interested in learning about the Bible, and seemed receptive to what I was saying. But her mother wasn’t receptive, and one night her mother and I got into a discussion about the need for religion. She insisted that she had a “special” relationship with God and didn’t need to go to church or study the Bible.
I was “raised in the church” as they say, meaning I grew up with parents who were members of the church, and so I always attended every meeting that they attended. I’ve spent nearly every weekend of my life worshipping with Christians, and nearly every Wednesday night of my life studying the Bible with Christians. But today when you talk to people in the world about the importance of going to church, it seems that they just aren’t interested. And sometimes when you talk to "so-called brethren" about their frequent missing of services, they too have an excuse.
People don’t think they need to go to church. They say that the all churches are full of hypocrites, and that the fact that all the denominations disagree just proves that no one church is right. People come up with all kinds of excuses why they don’t need to go to church. So I’ve decided that I’m going to give up telling people to go to church. I’m going to stop preaching that you need to go to church, and start telling people that they are right about not going. I’m gonna tell people just what they want to hear and believe: that they don’t have to go to church.
You may think I’ve lost my mind, or fallen away, or turned to join the heathens in the world. But that isn’t quite the case. You see, I’m gonna tell people that they don’t have to go to church, but then I’m also gonna throw in just one or two little comments about going to church. I’m gonna agree with people and tell them that they don’t have to go to church, except maybe in a few rare circumstances. I’m gonna say that you don’t have to go to church…unless some of these conditions apply to you.
For example, the next time someone tells me that they don’t need to go to church, I’m gonna say, “Well that’s exactly right." You don’t need to go to church unless…for example…there is no other place where Christ is preached. If there is some other place you can go, or some other people you can talk to, to learn all about Jesus and His life, then you don’t need to go to church. As long as you can learn all there is to know about the Lord without going to church, then you don’t need to go to church. Isn’t that right? But, if you do want to learn about Jesus Christ, then I guess church is the place you need to be. For here, we preach Christ crucified, just like Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 1:23. And we here have decided that we will not preach any other savior, but that we will only know Christ, just as Paul said in 1 Cor. 2:2. And on the first day of the week, we remember and honor the death of our Savior by communing with Him and each other in partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Can you do that anywhere else? So if you don’t want to learn about Christ, if you don’t want to think about His sacrifice that paid the price for your sins, then no, you don’t need to go to church.
You also don’t need to go to church if you know another place where pure, unadulterated, unchanging truth and wisdom is taught and supported. Can you find wisdom and truth in the movies? Can you find it in politics? Can you find it in sports? If you can find all truth somewhere else in the world, then by all means, go there and don’t bother wasting your time here! But if you can’t find truth anywhere else, then you do need to go to church. 1 Tim 3:15 says that the church is “the pillar and support of the truth” which means that if the truth is gonna get out to the world, it has to come from the church, from people who are members of the church. Ephesians 3:10 backs up that statement, saying that the manifold wisdom of God is made known through the church. But you don’t have to go to church if you can find all truth somewhere else.
You also don’t need to go to church if there is another place where you will always be encouraged to do the right thing. If there are people out there in the world who will tell you to always tell the truth, or tell you to always turn the other cheek, or tell you to avoid all forms of immorality, or even tell you to love your enemy, then you don’t need to be at church. But I just don’t know of any places like that today. The media glorifies immorality, and tells us that people living in adultery and in homosexual relationships are just as right as the people who don’t. Hollywood glorifies drinking and smoking and gambling and all manners of excess by telling us that our heroes possess such traits. Politicians tell us that honesty and integrity aren’t as important as money and freedom. Professional athletes teach us that being famous makes you above the law, because they can use drugs and get in bar fights and all sorts of other things, and get off with a “not guilty” verdict by hiring the right lawyers. So I haven’t found a place or an organization in the world that will teach me and my children to do the right thing. No place in the world does that…except the church. Let me tell you some of the things the church teaches…turn over to Rom. 12: 9-21 and read it. Will you ever hear any of that taught in public schools? Will you see that kind of behavior lifted up and praised in movies? Do you know any politicians that have all those characteristics? No, the world doesn’t teach us to let the Lord take vengeance…the world teaches us to get even and return evil for evil. But if you want to do the right thing, and learn how to do the right thing, and be taught what the right thing is, and if you want your children to learn the right thing, then I guess you do need to come to church.
You don’t need to come to church if there is another place or organization that will teach you information that will never change, never lose its value, and never need updating. Is there such a place? Science is always changing its theories. Archaeology is always coming up with new evidence to prove different things. Man-made laws always need revisions and amendments to keep them current and effective. In the job market, you have to keep your skills current in order to be competitive. So if you happen to find somewhere in the world where you can learn things that never change, never lose their value, and never need updating, then I suppose you don’t need to come to church. But if you can’t find such a place, and if you do value the idea of having a sure and steady Rock to stand upon, if you want to learn things that you will never have to doubt, if you want to gain wisdom that will always be true and applicable, then you do need to come to church. Jesus said that “heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). Peter said that “the grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever”(1 Pet. 1:24-25). And we can confidently say with the Hebrew writer that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb. 13:8). But if, apart from the church, you can find some kind of truth that never changes, never fades away, never loses its value and timeliness, then maybe you don’t need to go to church. Finally, you don’t need to go to church if there is another place where you can assemble with people who hold the same values, traditions, and faith that you hold. If you can find a group of people who have the same beliefs as you, then you don’t need to go to church. If you can find a place where people will love you and support you for the beliefs you have, then you don’t need to go to church. If you can find a place where people are united, and not just a false, shaky unity based on toleration and compromise, but a true unity based on common love and common faith, then you don’t need to go to church. But if you can’t find a place in the world where that exists, then maybe you do need to be here. Because in the church we encourage one another, we build each other up, we share what we have with each other, we share knowledge and possessions, we help each other and bear one another’s burdens, we love one another. Will you find that kind of organization in the world? Will you find a place where each person doesn’t have his own agenda, or his own ideas, or his own schemes? Will you find a place where people treat you as an equal? You see, in the church, it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, black or white, pretty or ugly, because in God’s sight we are all equal. And so we treat each other as equals. We have unity because we have the same goal: to get to heaven. We have unity because we have the same Savior: Jesus Christ. We have unity because we have the same respect for the Scriptures as God’s revelation to man. We have unity because we speak the same things and teach the same things and believe the same things. Will you find that kind of unity anywhere in the world? Will you find that kind of equality anywhere in the world? No, I don’t think you will. If you do, then maybe you don’t need to come to church, as long as you are going there. But if you can’t find it, then you do need to come to church.
So...will we see you at the next meeting?
By Carl Garner
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