Question: Isn’t going to church a cultural expectation? Does going to church really matter to God?
The biblical concept of the church is one of the richest topics of the New Testament. The church is the bride of Christ; the Temple, of which individual believers are the living stones; it is the “one new man” of Ephesians; it is the body of Christ comprised of all who believe in Jesus:
Eph. 1:22-23 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church [lit., “the congregation”], which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
The word “church” translates the Greek New Testament word ecclesia, which means “assembly” or “congregation.” It is also the term used most often in the New Testament to describe the body of Christ. God’s view of the church is His people congregating or assembling together.
When Jesus said to Peter “…on this rock I will build my church (lit. “assembly” or “congregation”), and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt. 16:18) he was envisioning His followers down through future history gathered together. In other words, His followers congregating in His name would never cease to exist. When persecution broke out against Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem the “church” (the “assembly” or “congregation” of Christians) was scattered (Acts 8:1). And when Saul set out to persecute Jesus’ followers he sought them out in homes where they “gathered” together:
Acts 8:3 But Saul began to destroy the church [lit., “the assembly” or “congregation”]. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.
Biblically, “going to church” pictures a group of believers in Christ joining together to worship God, to be taught the Word of God, to develop relationships through fellowship, to share the gospel with the unsaved, to baptize those being saved, to share meals and the Lord’s Supper together, and for prayer:
Acts 2:41-42 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Paul established church groups throughout the Roman Empire, complete with a leadership structure (Acts 14:23). His New Testament letters intentionally addressed the local congregations—the “churches” in Corinth, Colossae, etc., as was the case with John in his letter to the seven churches (Rev. 2-3).
The “church”—God’s gathered people—is the vehicle God ordained to reveal His wisdom to the universe:
Eph. 3:10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms…
Does going to church matter to God? Absolutely! When you gave your life to Jesus you gave yourself to so much more:
Heb. 12:22-23 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven…
See you in church!