Myth Buster: I’m a golfer but I don’t need to go to a golf course.  
Introduction: I’ve lost count of the times I have heard people say “I’m a Christian but I don’t need to go to church.”  But the Holy Bible teaches that it is extremely important. This page helps to explain why. 

Let me answer the following four questions. 
  • What is a church?
  • What role does the Church play?
  • Is the Church relevant?
  • Do Christians have to go every Sunday?

In the Bible, the church is only known as the people of God. People, not buildings. Of course we have church buildings but for the purpose of this page I will be talking about God’s church, what He calls his bride. God loves his church and says of it “My beloved”. God’s church includes anyone who loves him and is a true Christian. 

There are two expressions of the church:
1. The Universal Church. This is the collective name for every believer on earth.  Collectively the worldwide Church is the world’s largest organisation with branches in every part of the world and just over 2 billion members. And it has shown remarkable resurgence in Eastern Europe and China. Reports state that if Christianity continues to grow at its current rate in China, the country will be totally Christian in 20 years.
2. The Local Church. This is to be found wherever local people join together to worship and learn about God and it is in this context I will answer the questions. 

As we travel around we see many church buildings and chapels of all shapes and sizes, some empty, some turned into houses or art galleries, some with big signs outside, some rarely used, some seemingly brimming over. In addition to these we have new churches being built and also schools and factories turned into churches. We also have the Anglicans, the Methodists, the Baptists, and the Pentecostals to name a few. These segments are called denominations. Confusing, isn’t it? You could ask the question “Why don’t all Christians get together and have one large church in every town?” This is actually what the Bible describes when it talks about the church in Corinth and the church in Ephesus etc. Is it a possibility? I don’t know. I do know that some have tried and have had various results. There are things called “Bible Weeks” and this is where Christians from all denominations meet up, usually for a week, for the purpose of worship, celebration, Bible teaching and socialising. I’ve been to a few of these and they are rather good.

Some even meet and worship together with members of other religions. This is called the ecumenical church. It all sounds nice and community - based but actually it’s totally impossible spiritually as different religions worship different gods (see Religions).  

So why are there so many denominations? One reason is because groups of people tend to try and hold on to what they have rather than expand and develop. Christians, being no different, have done this over the ages. But God doesn’t necessarily want his people to just hold on to what they have, even if it is good. God is for ever moving on and he wants his church to move on with him, to grow and expand so more and more people can be introduced to him and his kingdom. (Please note here, that the church should never compromise the Holy Bible and when it does so, God will be less involved and you will see a dramatic downturn in its godly effectiveness. God will not bless anything that contradicts the Bible). 

So to explain just how different denominations happen let me take a fictitious example of a church which had, say, 200 members in the year 1900.

This church was started because its founders were called by God to come out of another church that had lost its way for one reason or another and become stale and ineffective. It started off very keen to hear the guidance of God, because this was new territory and they needed help. Everyone was excited and prayed a lot, expecting God to do great things. They told many people about Jesus and saw many of those people join them. They incorporated a new style of worship and Jesus Christ was right at the centre of everything they did. Great. But as the years passed, they naturally became comfortable with how they did things. They didn’t need God’s guidance so much because they knew what to do now and they were happy with what they had. But the God of the Bible doesn’t like his people sitting still for very long. He is hungry for them to always be progressing because there are millions of people outside of the church who haven’t yet heard about him, and Jesus is very very keen for those millions to hear about him and wants the church to tell them.

So God starts prompting the leaders to develop and expand. But only some of the leaders want to. And those that don’t want to get stubborn and make it impossible for progress to happen. And eventually a split happens and another church is formed. 

I hope you can understand this example. It doesn’t happen just in churches. I have worked with older voluntary groups, set in their ways, who are desperately in need of new volunteers, but are just not interested in having keen young people join them. They are afraid it might upset the equilibrium, but actually these groups will probably cease to exist soon if they refuse to accept that younger people might be the way ahead for them. It’s how human nature works and unfortunately the Church is no different. Maybe this is one reason why the Church in the UK has lost ground. But Almighty God will NOT give up on his beloved Church.  

Another option of church dividing is that a strong person wants to get his/her own way and can form their own church.

BEWARE. This last option is how many cults are started. How to tell a cult. A cult has a leader that seems to be above everyone else. Usually a charismatic man, this leader has some supposedly “inspired” teaching that he got “from God”, but not from the Bible. He calls people to follow him and makes rules that are not in the Bible either.
A true Christian leader calls people to follow and focus on Jesus, and adhere only to what the Bible teaches. They should lead by example, the example of Jesus, and be a servant to their people. 

There are other reasons but to end this section on a positive note, many churches today are growing and developing, listening to God and moving forward with him. There is a large church planting strategy, preparing for the growth God has promised and a renewed sense of faith and excitement among Christians. Across the world Christianity is growing at an astonishing rate. It’s just a bit slow in the UK. 

The role of the church
today is (not in any particular order), to be a shining beacon and example of the God who it serves, practically and spiritually, in the town or city where it is located. It is also there to introduce all sorts of people to Jesus Christ and this is called evangelism. It should teach what the Bible says and help its members grow and become mature disciples of Christ and it should be a place where Almighty God meets with His people as they worship and pray. Different churches put varying emphasis on these points, but if you find one that concentrates on all of these you are onto a winner. One that really welcomes visitors is a must. Can I take this opportunity to apologise on behalf of committed Christians everywhere if you have had an unfriendly welcome from any church. There are some great caring ones out there. 

So is the church relevant to you?
If you want to know more about God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit then the church is not only relevant but vital. (Some churches run an investigative programme called the Alpha Course which is a series introducing you to Christianity). If you want practical help then why not ask your local church? If you need healing, the Bible says to call the elders of the church to lay hands on you and the prayer of faith will make you whole. Why not ask your local church? (Some churches do not practise this). Do you need prayer? Why not ask your local church? Would you like to help or to get involved? Why not ask your local church? 

And lastly do Christians have to go to church every Sunday? A lot of golfers go to the golf course at least once or twice a week. They go because they love to play golf. Going to church should be something you look forward to. You should love to go and meet with God and his people. The Bible encourages believers to continue to meet together. And if you choose not to attend for some reason, then hopefully you will miss it.
  Just a thought: The Church should bring Gods word in love and action to the community it serves, and bring that community before the God it serves.