Is Not Attending Church a Sin?

Pleasant Hill

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.

Love,

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Tabernacle Glory

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I was reading through the passage in Exodus (chapters 25-27) this morning where Moses was passing along God’s instructions for the building of His Tabernacle. While I had no clue what most of the building materials that the passage calls for were (shittim wood?) there were certain items (like: gold, scarlet and finely spun) that I readily recognized as being some of the most sought after (and therefore prized) substances of their time. After a moment of contemplation I was overcome with two emotions:
1. I now had an extreme desire to see the tabernacles of old.
2. I was filled with shame because of the physical condition of many of churches today.

Can you imagine how beautiful the Biblical era temples and tabernacles were? The absolute loving adoration that the early Israelites put into their “churches” puts us to shame radiates in their work and puts our modern churches to shame.

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Which leads me to my second point (which I will introduce in the form of a question). When our church needs something, like when the microwave goes out, are we more likely to donate “an old one we had laying around or buy a new one specifically for the church? The Israelites had next to nothing, yet each one eagerly gave the very best of their belongings: gold, scarlet, gems…NOT leftovers to supply God’s temple-and as a result it was a magnificent place worthy of our all-powerful God.

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Update 8/2/2013

Recently I attended an in-service at First Pentecostal Church in Little Rock, Ar. This church embodied everything that I imagine a modern tabernacle would. Even the bathrooms were decked out! Here are some pictures of the church:

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Women’s Bathroom

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Another hallway in the bathroom

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My first ever bathroom selfie (I was a little obsessed with the bathroom).

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The ceiling in the room where our meeting was held was absolutely stunning.

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Time to go to the bathroom again!

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This is the “Creme de la Creme”, the sanctuary. Yes, that is gold leaf lettering on the ceiling. This room is so absolutely beautiful that my heart beat faster and jaw dropped (literally) in awe.

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Bucket of Shapes

My mom, being the wonderful teacher that she is, tended to get toys for us that had an educational flavor. One such toy that was a favorite of mine, was a bucket of plastic, geometric shapes. Sitting by itself it didn’t look like much, a bunch of squares and diamonds and hexagons all jumbled together in a clear plastic bucket. However, the magic began when you dumped the bucket out and mom handed you the double-sided, pattern cards. On these cards were all sorts of cool pictures; like flowers, trains and buildings. The cards (on the easy side) had an outline showing how you could take each plastic shape and put them together to make the picture (the hard side had the picture minus the outline).

In Sunday School last week the teacher was talking about the unity of the church; about how we are all parts of a body. He quoted Paul from 1 Corinthians 12:12-18:

“12 For the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body–so also is Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, whether slave or free–and we were all made to drink of one spirit. 14 So the body is not one part, but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I don’t belong to the body.” in spite of this, it still belongs to the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I don’t belong to the body.” in spite of this it still belongs to the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But now God has placed the parts, each one of them, in the body just where He wanted.” Holman Christian Standard

As the scripture was read I thought back to that childhood toy. The image of a mini-me sitting in the den, dumping out the bucket and searching through to find the exact piece that I needed, and excitedly placing it in the exact spot it had to go to make the picture work, came to mind. Then another memory flashed, it was one of me frantically searching all around to find my missing pieces that I had not been careful with. I remember the frustration when I would take my picture apart and have to start all over on something else just because one piece was not there.

I think that this is kind of like the unity of the church. Each member is a unique geometric shape, placed in that “bucket” (church) by God. They are all designed to fit perfectly into a pattern that He has created. Some of us are diamonds, some triangles and still others are trapezoids. I was quick to realize, as a kid, that it didn’t matter which piece was missing–it could be a leaf or the center of the flower–if even one was not in its place, then the entire picture was messed up and I had to choose another pattern. In the same way every member of the church is extremely important–whether you are the much-needed nursery worker, or the preacher himself–God’s plan for the church cannot work if even one of its member are missing or not doing their part. Even though we may not be able to see how everything fits together, our Father has a pattern card and on it a beautiful picture awaits to be made.

In Christ,

Mel