Remember the pandemic? Of course you do. Remember when we all were commanded to “shelter inside”? Well, you could go outside if the government determined that what you were going to do what “essential.” Was your job deemed essential? What activities could you participate in during those dark days? Well, you could go to the store to get food; that was considered essential. You couldn’t go to a friend’s house if it meant there would be too many people (usually over 10). You could go to the liquor store; because, you know, alcohol is essential. In places like Colorado I believe the marijuana shops were open. You could go to Walmart, but in at least one state you couldn’t go to the garden section and buy seeds or tools to grow your own food. In fact, in my Walmart experience during the shutdowns, there were quite a few people who were meandering up and down the aisles—at least six feet apart, of course.
In many states churches were not considered essential and you couldn’t worship together. This lasted long after the official shutdowns. Church is just not essential, apparently. Better for us all to worship quietly in the safety of our homes. So, many churches learned to stream. Many people tuned in, kind of. In my observation of the statistics that Youtube provides, the average watch time for a 70 minute worship service was a little over 20 minutes. Yeah, church is really not essential, even to those who would say it is.
Now, we’re a good ways past shutdowns, masks, vaccinations, and church is still not essential to many people, even those who were once faithful participants in their respective local congregations. I’ve seen about one third of my congregation (or more!) who attend quite sporadically, or who have stopped coming altogether. Church is not essential to them.
Jesus thought church was essential, however. He established it. Let’s define church to understand exactly what Jesus intended. The Greek word translated “church” in the New Testament is ekklesia (yes, we get our English word “ecclesiatical” from it). Ekklesia could literally be translated “the called out.” God calls His people out of the world, and He calls them together to worship. Implicit in the idea of church is gathering together regularly. The people of Israel did this in the temple and in their local synagogues. From the beginning Christians gathered in the temple and in homes.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42, CSB)
“Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts,” (Acts 2:46, CSB)
Yes, they did this more than just once a week. In fact, they gathered daily. Church was essential to them. God blessed these gatherings greatly. People were saved, healed, delivered from evil. They shared their worldly possessions. This essential church didn’t diminish but exploded with new members.
“Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles. They were all together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared to join them, but the people spoke well of them. Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers—multitudes of both men and women. As a result, they would carry the sick out into the streets and lay them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them. In addition, a multitude came together from the towns surrounding Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.” (Acts 5:12–16, CSB)
Church is still essential, regardless of what our godless government, and many faithless, consumer oriented Christians say or do. We are warned to continue meeting together, not for the sake of habit, but to worship and serve our Lord, and to encourage one another.
“And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
(Hebrews 10:24–25, CSB)
This is not possible when we are apart. It is not possible if you’re watching on your TV or computer or mobile device. We must gather. We must do this regularly. Church is essential. If you are a genuine believer in Jesus Christ, if Jesus is your Lord, you need to be involved in a local church weekly. Church is essential. If you neglect church, you’re simply living in disobedience to the Lord you claim to follow. Get back this week, participate, volunteer, and be consistent.