Many people have an improper and/or unbiblical understanding of church attendance. Some people feel that they must attend church legalistically, being at church virtually every time there is any kind of service or meeting. Some people experience a feeling of guilt whenever they miss a Sunday morning service. Sadly, some churches encourage this guilt by putting excessive pressure on people to attend regularly. In the matter of church attendance, the most crucial thing to understand is that the quality of a person’s relationship with God is not determined by how often he/she is in church. Similarly, God’s love for His children is not based on the number of times they attend formal services.
There is no doubt that Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, should attend church. It should be the desire of each and every Christian to worship corporately (Ephesians 5:19-20), to fellowship with and encourage other Christians (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and to be taught God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Attending church should be a joy, not a dreaded and dreary assignment. Just as God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), so He is pleased with a genuinely cheerful church attendee (Hebrews 10:24-25).
What then are appropriate reasons for missing church? Is it acceptable to miss church to attend a sporting event? Yes. Is it acceptable to miss church while on vacation? Yes. Is it acceptable to miss church when you are sick/ill? Yes. Is it acceptable to miss church because you are tired from a difficult week? Yes. Like so many other issues in the Christian life, church attendance can become legalistic instead of a matter of grace. A person does not have to attend church to be saved, to be a good Christian, to grow spiritually, etc. Rather, a Christian should attend church to learn about the greatness of God’s gift of salvation, to learn how to become more like Christ, and to have opportunities to minister to others.
Why do you attend church? Is it to make yourself appear spiritual? Is it to interact with possible business contacts? Is it out of legalistic thinking that says the more frequently you walk through the doors of a church, the more God is pleased with you? Is your Sunday morning filled with family strife, arguing, and screaming, followed by attending church with pasted-on smiling, happy faces? In such an instance, it would be better to stay home and work on biblically resolving the conflict in your family, instead of making a token appearance at church.
It all comes down to perspective and priorities. The busyness of many people’s lives makes church attendance more of a chore than a blessing. If attending church is not important enough, or valuable enough, to make it a priority, either something is wrong with your church or something is wrong with your attitude about church. Is your church attendance nothing more than arriving one minute before the service starts, sitting bored and inattentively through the worship and sermon, and then leaving immediately after the service ends? If so, you might as well have missed church, as you did not take anything from it, and you contributed nothing to it.
We should want to attend church so we can fellowship with others who have also experienced the amazing grace of Jesus Christ. We should avoid missing church, whenever possible, because we recognize the importance of hearing God’s Word, applying it to our lives, and sharing it with others. We should attend church, not to collect spiritual bonus points, but because we love God and recognize what His Word says about the importance of corporate fellowship and worship (Hebrews 10:24-25). Every Christian should attend church regularly. At the same time, missing church for a good reason is in no sense a sin or something that should cause feelings of guilt.
When you miss (do not attend) church, do you miss (have a longing for) church? If so, that is a sign you have a good and biblical connection with church. If not, that is a sign you need to re-evaluate your choice of church and/or participation in church. God knows our hearts. God is not impressed by a person attending every Sunday morning service, Sunday evening service, mid-week service, and Bible study opportunity a church offers. God’s desire is that we utilize the local church for our own spiritual edification and the use of our spiritual gifts to minister to others.