How often church attendance?

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In a recent post I asked two questions in relation to the Super Bowl and church attendance. The comment thread turned into a debate over Sabbatarianism and the place of the Lord’s Day in the Christian’s life. This is understandable to a point, yet I did receive some off-line comments which would have added to the discussion. While I did not argue for either, one point stood out and brought some other questions on church attendance to mind.

The term legalism came up in the above post though not as a direct charge. However, I’ve seen it argued that those who hold to Sunday as being the Lord’s Day, in that the Christian has a weekly duty to worship, as being legalistic. One commenter made the comment, in essence, that it would actually be legalistic if Sunday worship were not grounded in the Sabbath (4th Commandment) since one would be adding their own law. This is an interesting approach since most Christians would not require nor forbid others of what God has not required nor forbid least we earn the charge of legalism. Then I got curious about something.

On what basis does one judge how often they should attend church?

All Christians, I hope, have some idea of how often they expect themselves to attend church. Which should translate in some way as to how much they expect their fellow church members to attend also. I’m not talking about when people are sick, out of town, etc. I mean the normal week to week where nothing is preventing corporate worship. Yes, this could include the Super Bowl or any activity.

Most of us look forward to Sunday mornings. But do we have some kind of corporate obligation? Based on what? Is once a week enough if there are also Wednesday and Sunday evening services? How about once a month? How does one answer what is acceptable between once a month to once a week? Is Christmas and Easter enough? 🙂

So, on what basis do you decide how often you should attend church? Do you hold their fellow church members to a similar standard? Do expect others to hold you to a standard?

On what basis and what is this standard of church attendance frequency?

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The above article was posted on February 15, 2010 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bobby Capps February 15, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Here’s my take… gonna spot you that attending church is even a Biblical concept, we are the church, God’s gathered people, so it’s hard to attend us. Having said that, the periodicity of gathering is vitally important. The believers who were the subject of Hebrews address had made a HABIT of NOT gathering. God told them to gather, even more so… No judgment or law in the passage, just a encouragement to make a part of your scheduled rhythm the gathering with believers. I am deeply convinced that much too little has been made of organic gathering, that is making the most of meeting Christians in our normal life, encouraging each other, speaking God’s word to each other etc. But there is a habitual rhythm, a custom making, that is crucial to us as believers. Jesus went to the Mount of Olives AS WAS HIS CUSTOM, he went to the synagogue AS WAS HIS CUSTOM. I make a custom of hygiene, eating, exercise (not so much), work, etc. Spiritual life must also have rhythm and custom. BUTTTT, here’s the rub abt it all, I don’t care a whit if you miss a Sunday or so for any reason. Football, vacation, or especially, “I just don’t feel like it”. If you don’t feel like it, don’t come. If you’re tired, sleep. If you want to go recreate, go recreate. I don’t care and it’d be tough to defend any “go to church” rule from Scripture. God seems to guide us toward healthy habits lived out in freedom. But he does explicitly say that NOT gathering isn’t for our good.

2 Mark Lamprecht February 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I’m not convinced the answer to Hebrews 10:25 on encouraging corporate gathering reduces to someone not feeling like it. If someone only feels like gathering twice a year would that be okay? If this is not okay, why not? If so, on what basis is it okay?

Hebrews seems to show the importance of gathering together. It is even an encouragement to others. We may even say if someone simply doesn’t feel like gathering there is an underlying issue as to why.

Bobby, I’m just trying to ask the question on what basis we determine how much corporate gathering is enough vs. never gathering. How do you personally establish this?

3 Bobby Capps February 15, 2010 at 1:42 pm

For me, it’s all abt the word habit or custom or life rhythm etc. A word fraught with baggage would be spiritual discipline but perhaps is appropriate. If I only brush my teeth twice a year, there are negative consequences, same with meeting. However, if I didn’t brush this morning cause I didn’t feel like it, I doubt my teeth will fall out. Although, since living in MS, I wonder. 🙂

4 Nathan White February 16, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Mark-

Of course, I think this issue is directly related to the 4th commandment. No secret there.

However, if I may say one thing: I think most of the church, regardless of their position on the Sabbath, will admit that the OT principle of the weekly Sabbath plays a significant role in how we schedule worship in the NT. In other words, the pattern was set, and the NT church built upon that. Most everyone will admit that, even if their under the theological persuasion that the 4th commandment has been completely abolished in Christ.

Nevertheless, I would simply point out that I see some tough questions arising when we admit this. Namely, since the 4th commandment plays *some* role in establishing patterns of worship in the NT, where do we define, limit, or identify the boundaries of this role?

So I see a lot of inconsistency. If the Sabbath has anything to do with anything we do in the NT, then let’s admit that and call the 4th commandment perpetual (and then focus our arguments on exactly what it teaches us/command us). If the Sabbath has nothing to do with NT obedience/worship/instruction/patterns, then let those admit that, and then base their position on the frequency of corporate worship on some other authority, while also admitting that church attendance is a relative, ambiguous area of obedience that we’re not able to discipline people over.

My goal in this discussion has simply been this: people need to be convinced that the 4th commandment has something to do with them. What exactly that is, I’m content to let the Spirit guide them into proper application of the written law.

5 jim elliff February 16, 2010 at 1:14 pm

It isn’t legalistic to expect people to gather at appropriate times. We use the legalistic card way too often. Perhaps the real issue is submission to elders who have the interest of the church at heart. They should determine what is right for the people’s spiritual health. They may have in mind that some meetings are necessary for all believers and others optional, however. You should never join a church where you cannot joyfully submit to the elders. Heb. 13:17

6 Nathan White February 16, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Further clarification here:

1. Legalism can be defined as adding to or subtracting from God’s word. That’s not the same as an ‘application’. There are many applications of God’s law, but only one root.

2. Elders do have authority over their flock, but not in areas that ‘go beyond what is written’. That is, if they expect the flock to do something and submit to some kind of instruction, it better be based upon the word of God (an application of a specific command).

3. The bigger issue, IMO, is the expectations of the elders/flock. Again, almost every church I’ve been in there has been some kind of group/individual/elder who has looked down on somebody who was ‘committed’ enough to the activities during the week. It’s as if prayer on Wednesday and/or small groups during the week is a test to see who is really ‘on fire for God’. Unless we set expectations in our own minds, and in the minds of our people on what exactly God expects from us in the area of worship, then we will undoubtedly fall into these sinful habits.

Building off of that last point, this issue also comes up in my home. My wife feels guilty at times because she doesn’t always have time to read her bible every day (dealing with two small kids will do that for you). She wants to read her bible every day, but cannot many times. As I have taught her, I would also teach the church: God has given you 6 days to do whatever it is you want, lawfully. God expects one day of worship out of every 7, the Lord’s Day. Though you may not be able to read your bible or set aside special time of dedicated prayer, He has given you one full day a week that is both sufficient for all your necessary life and godliness, but is also the essence of obedience to His law.

7 Mark Lamprecht February 16, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Nathan & Jim, thanks for your thoughts. I was hoping to stimulate discussion by digging deeper as to the basis of where people get their own expectations for corporate worship. Scripture gives us guidance along with the pastor(s) and congregation to a point.

The personal conviction to attend corporate worship every Sunday comes from somewhere. It is possible for some that they attend because of tradition. I was hoping this would get people thinking past tradition.

8 Bobby Capps February 16, 2010 at 10:21 pm

I’d like to weigh in on the 4th if I may… the word Sabbath means rest, quit, cease, desist. It’s associated command was to work for six days. For most of my Christian experience I believed that meant “do religious service.” Now I believe it means rest. Look at the law and all its associated regulations even how the prophets spoke of its violation (see e.g. Is 58). Religious duty is some contemporary extrapolation of rest. God wired us for rest, in creation, before the 4th command. Many of us (me especially) have suffered gr8 negative consequence for not trusting God with this command by obeying it. Pastors are especially guilty here. The word means rest, not religious duty. Selah

9 brianvoiceofthesheep February 16, 2010 at 11:09 pm

I agree with Jim on this one, whose comments sound similar to ones I have made before concerning submission to the church’s leadership. A church member is still under obligation to submit, even if the issue is not something that relates to the application of a “specific command” in Scripture. For instance, if the elders of a church have decided on a particular order within the corporate worship service (something that is not directly addressed in Scripture), a member of that church would be in sin to go against that order and attempt to do something different during the service. He/she should submit to the leadership of the church in that instance, even if they disagree with what they are submitting to (as long as what they are submitting to does not violate God’s revealed will).

This also applies directly to how often a person should assemble…it depends on how often the elders have determined it is good to assemble. If you are a member of a church, and the elders have decided that it is good for the body to meet on Sunday mornings AND evenings for worship, then you are to submit to that. To do otherwise is to make a statement concerning what you think about the leadership God has placed over you.

10 Mark Lamprecht February 17, 2010 at 12:03 am

Brian, I’d like to push back just a little bit as I take a reading break. If I were to ask the elders how they came up with Sunday morning and evening, what do you think they’d say? Should they have a biblical grounding of some sort?

I wonder that if they do not have a biblical ground on which to stand how does one know where to draw the line in submitting? I’m not disagreeing that we are to submit to our leaders, yet when does it become when one lord’s their power over another? I could see how something could not violate God’s revealed will, as you’ve said, yet a position might differ causing one to violate their conscience.

Thanks for the discussion!

11 brianvoiceofthesheep February 17, 2010 at 12:15 am

Hey Mark!

Good questions. Scripture says to submit to your leaders, and I think that must include some things that are not expressly declared in Scripture (where to meet, what time to start, who’s going to preach, which songs to sing, what Scripture to read, how often to observe the Lord’s Supper, etc.). If a person’s conscience is violated as a result of the meeting times (or re: any of the things I mentioned) of a particular church, then I would have to say that that person has two options, submit or find another church.

For example, if our elders came to the congregation and announced that we were changing our Lord’s Supper observance from every week to once a quarter, I would have a very hard time with that, to the point that I am not sure I would be able to stay there, because I don’t know that I could submit to that decision. Now, Scripture does not give us a direct command on how often to observe the Supper (though it appears it was done weekly, or at least pretty frequently), but my conscience would have a hard time submitting to a that big of a reduction in seeing and partaking of the Supper, so I would probably have to think and pray hard about whether or not to stay. Any of that make sense?

12 julius mickel February 17, 2010 at 2:51 am

Best case scenerio: as much as possible!!
The church SHOULD be a place of edification, that of receiving and giving. With that said the problem is two-fold: Our receiving from those who have diligently put the time into preparing the word and opening the doors, as well as joining with our brothers and sisters as one large body.
Even the prayer meeting is vitally important in that we are giving something, there’s just something about the people you know will be there during prayer to lift you up when you are going through (sure anyone can pray for you from wherever, but to hear them is also encouraging).
PROBLEMS: Many cringe at this and may even call it legalism, because they simply don’t enjoy being around believers often (which could mean they are lost or avoiding issues/sin), Others may have thrown in the towel because they don’t find fruitful fellowship, they aren’t being feed the truth (or it’s not applied to their lives) and so they can’t see the fruit of attending regulary.
I’d think someone would need to do some serious examination, if they find no delight in ‘sweet fellowship’ (the way beyond chit-chat or ‘battle of the wits’ garbage), or a convicting, comforting, convincing sermon, or the experience of weeping/rejoicing with those who weep/rejoice.

13 Nathan White February 17, 2010 at 10:16 am

I’m going to have to disagree with Jim and Brian on the basis for their position (not what they are explicitly advocating). I believe that anything worthy of church discipline, casting someone out, calling them an unbeliever, etc., must be based upon exegesis of the text instead of man’s traditions. Both of you advocate a good position of being submissive to elders, but ultimately your arguments are based upon the traditions we have formed over the last two thousand years.

For example, Brian, you mentioned the order of worship: Paul explicitly mentions this in 1 Cor 14, so any refusal to submit to elders in that situation would be a violation of that text, which Paul says, “Is a commandment of the Lord”.

And it is begging the question to say that submission to elders is the basis for Sunday worship and attendance. The question, as I understand it, has just as much to do with the ruling of the elders as it does to the submission of the flock. If we were to take your position, then an elder body who calls for their church to quit their jobs, hold all things in common, and attend worship every single day of the week would be justified in doing so. Also, the elders, like many churches I am familiar with, could decide that it is only necessary for members to attend once or twice a year in order to remain in good standing –and by your standards they would be justified in doing so, and that person would NOT be in any sin.

This sounds to me like the traditions of the Catholic Church (and I say this for arguments sake, and not to equate anything you guys advocate with that apostate Church). Roman Catholic doctrine, if I’m not mistaken on the particulars, require that one attends Mass at Christmas and Easter in order to remain in good standing. By your standards, this is a perfectly acceptable practice. So I would again say that we must go with the word of God and not the traditions of man…even traditions of a group of elders.

14 SavedtoTheuttermost March 10, 2010 at 6:51 pm

If we are saved then what is the big deal about going every time the doors are open? I want to be around God’s word, people and house as much as possible! Nobody has ever had to twist my arm in the 14 years that I have been saved to go to church!!

15 Mark Lamprecht March 12, 2010 at 9:12 am

Saved, I agree with you that Christians should have a desire to come together for fellowship, worship, etc. As we discern God’s will for the church (and other areas) we objectively seek what God would have us do least we go too far and get carried away by our own desires.

16 Mizael May 27, 2015 at 7:25 pm

May the peace of the Lord be in your hearts. There’s way too much “I think” within this thread. Christ came and established the law of God and it’s not open for interpretation. How often did He preach? After He left, how often did his disciples and the remaining church congregate? According to Acts 2:46, daily. Gathering twice a week or twice a year may be good enough for your conscience but unfortunately, it’s not good enough for God. I mean absolutely no disrespect and only pray God help you all find Him. God bless you all.

17 Orla September 5, 2015 at 1:34 pm

I am grateful?

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