There’s always something new to learn from the Bible, even though others may have known about it (and wrote and preached about it!) for many years. My attention on this matter sprang from a men’s Bible study in the Book of Mark. In 6:2, the Gospel writer makes mention of Jesus teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. “Hmmm,” I said to myself, “There’s something to this.” As I examined the Scripture in the other Gospel accounts, especially Luke 4:12, I was enlightened as to why Jesus went to church: As was His custom.
Yet when someone asks why we (or they) should go to church, the most familiar refrain is the oft-quoted “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together” from Hebrews 10:25. It is a good point, but it’s not the only point, for church alone imprecisely narrows the context. Here, it is more than just about the church, which is not specifically mentioned by name except, perhaps, in verse 21 where house of God is used; but again, there’s more context here as we read in I Corinthians 6:19 where your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is in you, whom you have from God. Even so, and either way, Jesus is the High Priest over the house of God. (v. 21)
Clearly, assembling together in an organized fashion like a local church should not be forgotten nor abandoned, neither of which Jesus was guilty of doing. Yet there’s ample meaning, too, for Bible study groups, fellowship get-togethers (like at the coffee shop), Christian concerts, and other such assemblies of believers. Is it just about worship? Yes, and no. The rest of Hebrews 10:25 tells us that when we assemble together, we are to exhort one another. We can do that in worship as well as (if not better in) Bible study groups, song-fests, camps, and other Christian venues. Certainly, the context in the entire chapter of Hebrews 10 is about salvation, sanctification, and soul-searching. And most certainly, the church should be about those things.
Turning back to the Gospel accounts, we see in Jesus the greatest example of churchmanship, or “synagoguemanship,” if you would. He went to church, and dare I say that He was active in church, because it was His custom. This is compelling, I think more so than the mandate in Hebrews where exhortation should be the product of assembling. While Hebrews and many other chapter-and-verse citations throughout the Bible provide considerable apologetic ammo for doing church, it all comes down to a very simple, primary reason: Jesus went to church and if believers want to be like Him, then they, too, will include churchmanship in their walk of faith.
To be clear, this is not just about me and my sons and brothers in the faith. There’s a third component to church-going and church-doing: showing the world the fathomless riches of Christ and the unfathomable wisdom of God. According to Paul in Ephesians 3:8-11, the purpose of the church, contextualized for us Gentiles, is for believers to gather together (like Jesus) as a local church unit of the universal church (as we exhort one another) to make known…to principalities and powers in heavenly places the manifold wisdom of God. This, Paul says, is according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (v. 11)
Not coincidentally, Jesus is central to the church. He is the reason we believers should go to church. He is the High Priest over our encouraging assemblies, and He is the wisdom of God that we should proclaim to all the world (I Corinthians 1:24, 30). There’s no way to escape this. There’s no way to remove Jesus from the church; that is, unless you build your house upon something other than the holy Word of God. In that case, just about anything can be central to your worship: the par 3, a fishing pole, beer-laden stadiums, or the inside of your eyelids.
I would add one more point to all of this, and I think Biblically so: We, the church – the believers and followers of Jesus who constitute the historical, universal church – are to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus. That Good News is: That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (I Corinthians 15:3-4).
That succinct statement defines the Gospel which, in turn, must be decided: That if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 109-10).
And with that, one can declare, along with and within the church, that Jesus is Lord of all. (Acts 10:36).