Should Christians Go to Church on Sunday?
Come to Church on Sunday
It’s the spring of the year 2022. It’s just after Easter. I am aware that two years ago, our church, like all of your churches, our church here in Jacksonville, Florida, at First Baptist Church, was on lockdown. It was in early March that I made the decision, together with our other leaders, that we had to close this thing down like everybody else was. We were closed up for about three months before we started to realize, okay, this isn’t what it appeared that it might have been, and we’ve got to start having church again. We found over the ensuing months, and now over the ensuing years, that it was actually a fairly easy process to shut down church. And opening church and getting people to come back has been a fairly complicated process. I’ll tell you that in the spring of 2021, I was looking at the people who had returned when we first opened up. In the spring of 2020, we started out with several hundred people. And over the ensuing months, hundreds of people came back. And then we were back into the thousands at our church. But we didn’t have everybody back, and we knew it. And I thought by the spring of 2021, as I was looking around, we’d been back open a year. I just said, you know what, I think the people that were coming back have come back. I was wrong about that. Every month, I talked to people who said, hey, we’re back for the first time since March of 2020. Just in the last week, I talked to three families at our church again here in Jacksonville, Florida, who said to me, hey, this is our first Sunday back, and we’re happy to be here. We’ve been watching on the live stream. We’ve been listening to the podcasts, we’ve been engaging from our house, but we haven’t been here, and oh my goodness, we’re so happy to be back. And the joy in people’s voices and on their faces when they say they’ve come back is really a wonderful reality.
I want to tell you about two experiences that I had during the lockdown and following it. That really helped me understand the value of church. I’m a pastor, I’m a Christian, of course; I know the value of church, but I experienced and felt the weight of the value of church and being together in church in a couple of different ways. First was during the lockdown. Even though we weren’t having people come to our church, we would still meet. Me and the worship team and the worship staff, and the media and communications team, we would still show up at our campus. We would play the music into the camera, and I would get up, and I would preach into the camera. I will tell you that I hated it. I really hated it. I was thankful for the opportunity to preach. I was thankful for an opportunity to serve our church when they couldn’t get together. But I’ll tell you I realized I did not become a preacher so that I could stare into a camera. I love to see the faces of people. I love to interact with people standing in the sanctuary while our wonderful worship team led in music. They sounded great, but it was not right when you couldn’t hear the voices in the room. I really didn’t like it. And I was so thankful the first Sunday we opened up, and we had several hundred people, and all of a sudden, there were faces, and there were voices, and we were shaking hands and hugging and all the rest. What we found out during the lockdown is we were afraid of contact with people. And we discovered that there is a greater danger of no contact with people. That was my first experience.
Another experience was when I was on lockdown. Shortly after, we returned, and we were getting back in the groove. I had to have two surgeries within eight months of one another. Both of those surgeries required a month of recovery. And so, in the span of eight months, I was home for two months, and I got to participate in the live stream on the other end of it. I had been participating in creating the content, and now I was participating in receiving the content. I will tell you, after both surgeries at the beginning, in the early weeks, I was really thankful for that live stream. I was really thankful for the opportunity to participate in some way with my church and hear the preaching and hear the songs. But after about three or four weeks, I was sick of that, too. I realized I didn’t want to sit in my comfy clothes on the sofa and watch what other Christians are doing and have my voice fill up my living room. I want to be there with them. Again, I found that we really need is to be together. And that’s why I’m talking to you about why you need to be at church.
It’s Better to Be Together
It’s better to be together. Here’s who I’m talking to. I’m talking to you if you’re still at home and if you’re still biding your time. Maybe you’re not worried about getting sick any more; maybe you just got into the habit of wearing your PJs and eating donuts and drinking coffee or taking a walk. Maybe your online attendance is even spotty now, and I’m speaking to you to encourage you to come. I’m not speaking to you if you’re at home because you have to be. There are real medical challenges. There are real logistical challenges that keep people who want to be at church away from church. I’m not talking to you. I don’t want you to feel any kind of guilt. The reason we have this technology and should be thankful for the technology is to serve people like you. But I’m talking to you if you are at home because you want to be. I’m talking to you if you’re at home because you’ve gotten into a habit. I’m talking to you if you know you should be at church, and it wasn’t COVID that drove you away. But maybe something that happened a decade ago. I’m also talking to you if you come to church, but you’re thinking, I don’t know, it seems kind of a drag, and I could use some free time on Sunday morning. I want to say to you that you need to be at church. It’s better to be together. Your life is going to be better when you get together with other Christians.
In Hebrews 10:25, that’s sort of the classic passage on this. There’s a command from the author of Hebrews, and it says, “not to neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some.” Some of you are in the habit of not meeting together. The Bible commands you to break that habit and to get back together. The Bible gives several reasons. That’s Hebrews 10:25, but right in the context of chapter 10 is Hebrews 10:22, which says, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” We’re supposed to be drawing near to God. And in the context, the apostle doesn’t want us to draw near to God alone. He wants us to draw near to God as we meet together. I need to hear your voice in the Scripture reading. You need to hear my voice. We need to be able to look around at one another and hear the words spoken from our mouths to see each other speaking those words. We need to draw near to the Lord, but we need to do it together, not forsaking the meeting of ourselves together. In verse 23, it goes on. It says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” This world pulls us away from faithfulness. This world pulls us away from Jesus. You need to get with other Christians. The Bible says you’re supposed to hold fast your confession, not alone, but as you meet together. We need to hold one another accountable. We need to encourage one another in the faith, and that actually gets to verse 24. It says, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Listen, life’s hard. And as we live it, I need you, and you need me. I need to talk to you in the hallway. I need to pull you aside and sit you in the back and hear what you have to say to me about how I can be a more faithful Christian, about how I can be a more joyful follower of Christ. We need one another. And in verse 25, it says, “not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some but encouraging one another.”
We Need Encouragement
We need one another. We’re not designed to live our lives with a screen glowing in our faces. We’re designed to live our lives hugging one another, yes, hugging one another, shaking hands and praying for one another and patting each other on the back and lifting our hands together and asking people to scoot over in the pew and asking if we can add a chair at the table. We need this. It is good for you. I want to say to you whether you’re spotty in your church attendance, whether you’re wondering about your church attendance, whether you haven’t been to church in a decade, for whatever reason, or whether you haven’t been to church because of COVID. I’m saying to you, you need to be at church. You need to make this decision. Sunday is for the Lord. Sunday morning, at the very least. I hope you’ll come on Sunday night. I hope you’ll come on Wednesday night. I hope you go to church whenever you can. But at a bare minimum, Sunday morning has to be a time when you and your family say that it’s just for church. We’re going to give that time to the Lord. If there are scheduling conflicts, we’re going to schedule around. Our family we don’t do things that interrupt our church attendance. When I’m on vacation, we go to church; when there are events and our kids’ lives, we skip them for church. I could count, on one hand, in the last few years that we have missed church, and it’s been for big reasons. Like we’re sick, and we can’t go. Your family needs to make the decision. You need to make the decision that on Sunday, I’m going to get up, and I’m going to go to church, not because I have to, although it is a command, but because I want to.
The command is there because God knows what we need. God is a gracious and kind God. He wants you to draw near. He wants you to hold fast to your confession. He wants you to encourage and be encouraged, and he knows you can’t do it on your own. But you need to be together. So, you need to be at church, and why not start this Sunday?