If you want to seriously upgrade your spiritual life this year, do this one habit: go to church.
It’s that simple. Going to church matters. The book of Acts shows that the early church met together regularly, being devoted to corporate worship (Acts 2:42-47). The book of Hebrews, which many Christians believe to be a manuscript of a sermon written to encourage the church, encourages believers to make a habit of meeting regularly for worship (Hebrews 10:25). The apostle Paul describes unity of Christ’s body, the church: “We, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5). We are individually members of one another. In other words, we are bound by Jesus’ blood to one another.
Going to church also matters because Christians are most healthy when they are connected to a church community. It is just not healthy for a believer to isolate themselves and watch sermons on YouTube every week. “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire,” the book of Proverbs says, “He breaks out against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1). (Obviously, streaming services can play a role for those who are homebound or out of town. I’m not talking about these exceptions. In fact, the exceptions prove the rule). The corporate gathering of the church allows believers to live out the “one another” commands of the New Testament. The large group gathering also pushes believers to socialize with and move towards others than are markedly different than themselves. There is no sacrifice necessary if you only and ever gather with people who are just like you. But in the body of Christ, we are very likely to come across very different people. This requires sacrifice.
Furthermore, the corporate worship of the church is only place to receive the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. So often, evangelicals denigrate the sacraments as a means of spiritual growth. Almost every other theological tradition of the Christian faith makes the practice of Communion central to it’s spirituality. Yet, when was the last time you heard a sermon, or read a book, that placed the sacraments in a high place for evangelicals? Yet the apostle Paul devotes two significant sections in 1 Corinthians to Communion (1 Corinthians 10:17-22; 11:17-34). Paul also recognized that Communion was built upon the instructions of Jesus in the Upper Room, which is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And the Lord’s Supper was a practice that Paul expected the church to continue until the return of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:26). Clearly, Communion was a central, consistent practice of the church from the very beginning.
Moreover, the Protestant Reformers formulated that the “proper administration of the sacraments”was one of the essential marks of a church! So here’s a question to ponder. What is a more valuable practice for growth: the Lord’s Supper or daily devotions? Now, I’m not trying to denigrate reading the Bible every day. That’s a great thing! I guess my point is this: Sometimes we make Christian growth more complicated than it needs to be. The Bible itself sees going to church—gathering together to hear the word preached, to partake in Communion, and to encourage other believers, as a foundational and central practice. Even if your other spiritual practices don’t take off, remember that going to church is foundational for the Christian life. It is a “keystone” habit, a habit which creates a cascade of other good changes in our lives.
So even if your life gets off to a rocky start in 2023, even if your Bible reading plan has failed six days in, even if you have sinned spectacularly and feel like a failure, even if your grand plans for the year have unraveled already, do ONE THING this week: go to church.