Christian life in the modern world seems to revolve around local the mystical teachings of jesus buildings, called churches. These buildings are so central to Western Christianity that almost all worship, praise, fellowship and prayer services take place in them. Almost all evangelistic activity takes place in churches where “seekers” are invited to meetings. In fact, many who attend church services question the faith of those who claim to be Christian and who live a Christian life in all respects except that they don’t go to church. What is the truth? Is church attendance a mere practice of religion or is it necessary to find peace with God?
Denominations and big established churches (say, larger than the average house would hold) will all tell you church is necessary to have the Christian fellowship encouraged in the Bible. In their support, many people have attended church services to find the hope and salvation that Jesus offers. That certainly was my experience. At the age of 13, I had committed a sin for which my father’s punishment wasn’t enough. One afternoon, it “occurred” to me to visit the local church that evening when the cars arrived. It “happened” to be the first meeting of a week-long evangelistic revival. I went to the alter, accepted Christ and began a journey that eventually led me into the ministry. Let me tell you, for me, the big church changed my life. So I don’t find it surprising to hear the big church leaders answer the question by saying, “Yes, churches are absolutely necessary for Christian life.” Though I’m not surprised by the answer, it may be a little self-serving. But big churches are joined by a relatively new faction in Christianity, the house church movement
Members of the house church movement are commonly understood to believe that big churches were not around for the first 350 years of Christianity, that you don’t need a denomination, professional speaker or worship leader to honor God, that, in the early Church, spiritual gifts were exercised as everyone spoke and sang and prayed and ate together in the Holy Spirit in each other’s home. All this is true, as clearly documented in the New Testament. I’ve experienced home church and can tell you some of my closest Christian relationships came from home fellowships of one kind or another. My preferred style of Christian worship, in fact, is in small, intimate groups where, if someone says their son is sick, you can see his face when you pray for him. If you were to ask me, I’d tell you this small, intimate fellowship is absolutely necessary for Christian life and spiritual growth. Of course, this is a little self-serving because I’m a leader in one of those house church movements.
Churches are mentioned numerous times in the Bible so maybe that’s where we can turn for the authoritative answer to the question. You’re probably saying, “…ya think?” The writer of Hebrews tells us to not neglect gathering together as some are in the habit of doing. Acts records that the church met regularly in homes to fellowship, study, pray and, my favorite, eat together. Sometimes Christians rented larger rooms or halls to accommodate larger meetings. Paul writes to the Corinthian churches that everyone has a hymn, teaching, revelation, tongue or interpretation that must be done but done in an orderly way. No matter where or when you “go to church” this is what the Bible says happens there.