The Importance of Church

Anne Witton 1 month ago
Blog 3 mins
Found in: Church
‘I’m fine with God, I just don’t like the church.’

This is something I’ve often heard Christian friends say, especially when they’re struggling or have been misunderstood or even ill-treated. And let’s be honest: church is often a tough place to be, perhaps especially for people struggling with same-sex attraction or gender identity. But let me say definitively and unequivocally: although it’s imperfect, the Church – Christ’s body here on Earth, our family – is integral to being a Christian. Saying that you’re a Christian but don’t go to church is a bit like saying you’re a rugby player but you don’t play with a team. You may know the rules and have the skills, but chucking a ball around by yourself isn’t what rugby is all about.

Church – Christ’s body here on Earth, our family – is integral to being a Christian.

We are reminded in the Bible not to give up meeting together, but to encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25); that we belong to one another (Romans 12:5); that we are given gifts to serve one another (1 Corinthians 12:27-30). This is why not being at church is so dangerous as a Christian. I’m not talking about missing the occasional Sunday, but rather staying away from church for long periods, especially when we’re struggling in our faith. It may be that we do need to leave a particular church for good reasons, but it’s important to find another one as soon as possible.

There have been numerous times in my life where I’ve found church really tough. I’ve cried through more services than I can remember. I’ve had panic attacks in the back row. I’ve snuck in late and run off before the service ends so I didn’t have to talk to anyone. But in my 26 years as a Christian, I’ve never stopped going to church, and I honestly think it’s one of the main reasons I’m still following Jesus today. I’ve sadly seen too many same-sex attracted Christian friends who’ve found walking the path of obedience really tough and have ended up slipping away from church and inevitably losing their grip on the wonder and beauty of following Jesus, only to end up in a gay relationship and nowhere in their faith. Most often, they haven’t made a conscious decision to turn away from God but have taken a path that’s lead them away from the support and challenge of his people and have found that they just can’t go it alone.

Church exposes us to truths that we won’t find anywhere else. When we’re struggling to read the Bible, we will hear its words at church. When we find prayer impossible, the prayers of our Christian brothers and sisters are vital. If we stay away, the only sea we swim in will be that of our culture’s narrative and it won’t be long until we drown and lose our sense of who we really are in Christ.

If we stay away, the only sea we swim in will be that of our culture’s narrative and it won’t be long until we drown and lose our sense of who we really are in Christ.

You need your church and your church needs you. Church culture is never going to change to be honest and more vulnerable if all the people who are struggling with the tough stuff of life stay away. We need to serve the Church by being messy in its midst and making it confront the doubts, confusion, pain and suffering of life in a fallen world. No matter how many Christian podcasts, sermons and worship songs you listen to in your own time, real Christianity has to involve joining with the lives of messy, broken people just like us. As Carey Nieuwhof says: ‘Disconnecting yourself from community is actually less faithful than connecting yourself to a flawed community.’1 He also helpfully reminds us that the new creation is a community, albeit a gloriously redeemed one.

So, this is my plea to you. If you’re not going to church anymore, come back. It’s never too late. If you’re thinking about leaving, please hang in there, no matter how hard things are. Even if you hate it and cry all the way through the services. Even if everyone else seems joyful and you’re not. There will always be other people who feel like that and you will find them. Be surrounded by Christians even if you feel like an outsider. You won’t always feel like that. I promise that it does get better. The most dangerous place for a struggling Christian to be is alone. You need the Lord’s people, even if they find it hard to understand or they say insensitive things. We’re loved into life in community. A log that’s fallen out of the fire soon goes out. Stay in the fire.

  1. Carey Nieuwhof, ‘A Response To Christians Who Are Done With Church’, Carey Nieuwhof. Accessed 8 August 2022.