Is it a sin not to go to church?
Since nearly every church closed their doors in 2020 because of the pandemic, I’ve had many people tell me about how they just watch church online. Not attending a church on Sunday isn’t a new thing, but it’s definitely become more popular in the past few years.
Today, it’s easier than ever to be fed spiritually at home. We can watch whatever pastor we like on YouTube, and choose from a library of 10,000+ sermon podcasts.
I understand why people don’t want to go to church. It can be inconvenient. Especially when you have little kids, or don’t have a church you enjoy nearby.
Is it a sin to not attend church?
My short answer to this question is yes. Not being involved in a church is a sin for a Bible believing christian.
Before you get upset and leave, there are a few important things you need to understand. I’m going to explain how the Bible defines sin, and what it means to be involved in a church.
It might look much differently than you’re thinking. As always, my goal is to provide you with a biblical perspective, and share my experiences.
Scripture that supports church attendance
When you’re researching this topic, the most common verse you read is Hebrews 10:25.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV
This verse explains one of the purposes of gathering with other believers. Together, we encourage each other to love and do good to other people. Our church community should inspire us to live a healthy Christian lifestyle.
“These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
1 Timothy 3:14-15 NKJV
In this scripture, Paul is writing to Timothy. Paul explains that his letter was written to guide church culture and proper conduct. Paul also says the church of the living God is the pillar and ground of truth. That sounds like something we shouldn’t ignore or reject.
What exactly is the church?
There are two different definitions of the word “church”.
You’ll hear people say things like, “the church is the people, not a building.” That is 100% true—the church is made up of people. 1 Corinthians 3:9 says, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.”
“You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
Ephesians 2:19 ESV
When Jesus said “I will build my church” He used the Greek word ekklēsía (ek-klay-see’-ah). This word doesn’t mean a physical building. Ekklēsía is the body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.
Jesus said that when two believers were gathered together, He would be present. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a church building or not.
The church is also a building where people gather to worship, pray, teach, encourage, and disciple people. Even though the church is made up of people, having a regular meeting place is valuable.
Throughout the book of Acts and the entire New Testament, we see the church meeting in a regular place at regular times. Paul also gives clear guidance on having order during church meetings, and having leaders, bishops, and deacons in the church. Looking at the New Testament as a whole, it’s very clear that there should be structure and order within the church.
Random groups of people sporadically meeting in a living room isn’t aligned with the Bible.
There are also great benefits to having a dedicated building and meeting times for weekly church services.
When I served on the greeting team at my church, most of the people I met visited the church because they drove past it or found it on Google. These people only came to church because we met in a church building during scheduled times.
The church is the people, but you can’t ignore the value of the church building.
What is sin?
James gives a simple definition of sin:
“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
James 4:17 NKJV
If you know you should be doing something, like attending church, and aren’t doing it, you’re sinning.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be saved or have a relationship with God if you don’t attend church. I do believe that if you’re choosing to not attend church, you’re limiting your relationship with God. Just like you can be saved without reading the Bible, but you’re missing out on the benefits.
God’s desire is to have a strong, healthy relationship with you. Part of that is being planted and attending a church regularly.
What is the value of attending church?
The greatest benefit of going to church is meeting like minded people. As believers, we need to spend time with other believers. We need to meet people who share our biblical values, who can encourage our faith, pray with us, celebrate, and mourn with us.
I know that I could move to a new city and find a church to attend. That would give me and my family a healthy community and support.
“Those who are planted in the house of the LORD Shall flourish in the courts of our God.”
Psalm 92:13 NKJV
This verse is a promise we can stand on. When we’re planted and committed to the church and house of God, our life will flourish. I’ve personally seen family members whose lives aren’t flourishing because they’re not planted in a church.
It’s also essential to have dedicated leaders. Pastors and church leaders should be involved in our life. Going to church gives us access to wise counsel and discipleship.
Many people avoid church because they don’t want discipleship or discipline. They’re avoiding some discomfort, but also limiting their spiritual growth.
One important thing you need to keep in mind is that no church is perfect. The church is filled with people, and the only perfect person to ever live on earth was Jesus.
I promise you can find fault in every church you attend. You’ll never meet a pastor or church leader who you agree with on everything. That doesn’t give you justification to not attend church. There are definitely healthy and unhealthy churches, but you can’t expect perfection.
The benefits of attending a healthy church can’t be thrown away because of bad experiences with people or unhealthy church leaders.