I have had the discussion, more than once, about whether or not it is a sin to not attend church. Often the argument is thrown out that, “I don’t need to attend church to have a relationship with God. I can read my Bible from my home.” at which point the opposing side will counter with, “Do not forsake the assembling of ourselves” which is a play off of Hebrews 10:25 which, in its entirety says (this once I’m quoting in KJV so you can see the resemblance between the two quotes), “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
…and thus the argument continues back and forth with no one actually reaching an agreement or decision. So what, exactly, is the answer? Well, I’m not sure there is a solid one. First, there are too many extenuating circumstances to give a blanket answer. I can, possibly, address a few situations with my opinion and see if that helps.
First, one of my pet peeves is when anyone takes just a portion of the Bible and runs with it. I think that in order to fully understand what God is trying to tell us then we need to look (at least) at the passage as a whole. From here out I’ll be using the Holman Christian Standard Bible. The passage from Hebrews that is often used to as a defense of mandatory church attendance really should be backed up to, at least, verse 19 and reads like this:
19. Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh), 21 and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. 23 Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, 25 not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25 HCSB
To me, this passage speaks about so much more than just getting your butt to church on a regular basis. It also talks about the emotional experience of church. Well, what happens when something has affected that experience? Then where do you go and what do you do? What if you truly long to attend church (I’m not talking about just slackers, if you are slacking then turn off the tv and get your tail to church-there, I addressed that) but, rather, have had a spiritual battle that prevents you in one way or another from attending? What do you do then?
Well, I can tell you what my husband and I did.
Figure it out? That’s right, you keep trying. Either, you attend your church-despite the spiritual struggles-or you look for a new one. And, even when you go week after week after week and you still don’t find the one that you belong in, you go again until you hear God speak. I won’t lie and say that we were faithful and kept trying like we should, but I wish that we had. If we had, if we hadn’t given up and spent months at home moping, then we would have found the fellowship and love that we have now sooooo much sooner. I know how hard it is when you have been wounded spiritually, and I know that sometimes you need time at home to talk to God and pray; personally, I think that it’s ok to take that time. However, I do believe that God intends for us to be in church regularly to hear His Word, to be ministered to, and to minister to others. God will heal our wounds, if we’ll let Him.