As promised, let’s look at church attendance. In considering the question of whether a person “needs” to “go to” church (which we understand as Sunday morning worship attendance, in this instance), we’ll do well to look at the “what”s of Sunday morning worship: what it is for, what it isn’t for. In this way, we can come to a deeper appreciation for, and understanding of, “why” people do (or, should) “go to” church.
For this overview of the topic, we’ll do well to examine the Church’s teaching – both the explicit and the implicit teaching of the Church. For this, we’ll need to come at the question from a few angles: sacramentally (which encompasses both baptism and communion, and more if there’s time), liturgically (the standard set for the prayers and praises of the church when gathered), and in the everyday terms of our lives (cost/benefit, supply/demand, etc.).
So, to begin looking at what Sunday morning worship is about – or of why people would “go to” church on Sunday morning – let’s take a look at a purely practical concern. If nobody attended Sunday morning worship, there would be no Church – not in every sense, but in a particular, and important, one. Sometimes people comment that they feel that “organized religion” (which, in the West, generally means “the Church”) is a money-grab. It stands to reason, were this true, that the only thing the Church would be interested in is getting and keeping money.
Imagine a parish church soaked in endowments: the interest from the money held in savings is more than enough to cover utility bills and clergy expenses each month, and yet in this hypothetical parish church there are no people left attending Sunday worship. With little further imagination, we all know that this parish church will not be left functioning for long. The ability of an endowment fund to pay a priest and bills is not a valid reason for actually doing so. So if money-grabbing isn’t what the Church is about, what is it about?
Imagine a reversed parish church, where there is no money – yet there are people gathering each week for worship. They have little money, themselves, and so beyond the utilities being paid each month, and a small honorarium to the retired priest that leads their worship, there is nothing. No prospects of hiring a clergyman who isn’t retired, or who requires pay beyond the honorarium. Yet, they will continue. Why?
The Church isn’t about getting people’s money. The Church is about declaring Jesus Christ, the Son of God, risen from the dead and granting salvation to those who come to Him in faith. The Church is about the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers, making them holy as God is holy. The Church is about standing against the self-indulgent ways that the world promotes: against materialism, against self-promotion above all else, against inequality, against injustice.
Your attendance at Sunday morning worship is your stand against these things (among others), which corrupt and destroy. There is no guilt in being unable to give large sums of money to your local church; gather for worship nonetheless – join your voice to the voices of the angels and archangels, apostles, prophets, martyrs, saints of all ages. Jesus is Lord! Not self, not property, not the evils of inequality, injustice and discrimination – Jesus is Lord!