This document reflects commonly held beliefs based on scripture which have been endorsed by the church's Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the Executive Presbytery.
Why is regular weekly church attendance so important? Why can’t a believer stay at home and develop spiritually just through Bible reading and prayer?
Hebrews 10:25 gives the command in no uncertain terms: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." In keeping with this instruction, the constitution of the Assemblies of God states that the church "shall represent, as nearly as possible in detail, the body of Christ as described in New Testament scriptures." The New Testament church met faithfully on the first day of the week. Its members were instructed to bring their offerings to God on that day (1 Cor. 16:2).
A person’s reasons for going to church are usually influenced by his or her appreciation of the children of God. If worldly friends are more admired than godly saints are, then church attendance will fade in importance and attractiveness. If godly people are admired and appreciated as beautiful contrasts with the evils of the world, one will want to spend time with them worshiping God. Church services can seem boring when they are man-made, but God’s real presence is never boring to a true believer. Those who put on a spiritual facade but underneath prefer worldly pursuits are likely to avoid situations where God is present in His beauty and power. But apart from our feelings about personal church attendance, we must look at Scripture to see the importance God places on attendance in His House with fellow believers.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the necessity of setting aside a day each week to acknowledge God’s importance in our lives is not only stressed but commanded (Ex. 20:8). Jesus who is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28) was faithful to the Sabbath law and was regularly found in the House of God during His earthly walk (Luke 4:16). If the Son of God felt the need to attend a house of worship regularly, we, His followers, should do no less. The Sabbath as an Old Testament tradition gives way in the New Testament to gathering for worship on the first day of the week as a commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection. The day, however, is not the essential; the gathering together is.
Relationships are an important part of human life. We were not created to live in isolation. Historically, some hermits have withdrawn from the world to meditate and have communion with God, but Scripture nowhere teaches permanent solitude as a lifestyle. Having understood the importance of fellowship with other human beings, our choice of associations is critical. Rather than finding our fellowship with people of the world, we can go to a church, even in a different city, and expect to find people of like beliefs and faith.
Not only is Christian fellowship in a local church good for our emotional health, it is essential to our Christian commitment. We are to encourage one another (1Thess. 4:18, NIV), comfort one another (2 Cor. 1:3,4), and bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). Those who do not attend church regularly with fellow believers run the risk of failing in their Christian walk. We really do need each other. God wants us to fellowship with Him both individually and with other believers. Some followers of the Christian faith rationalize that once they have learned the basic lessons of the Bible it is no longer necessary to attend church. Others claim to be able to worship God alone without the distractions of the "hypocrites" who attend church. This logic reveals much about the spiritual health of the absent believer. It is not a matter of either going to church to grow spiritually or having devotions at home to grow spiritually. Both are essential to a healthy Christian life. And it is selfish to learn Bible truth at home and not share it with fellow believers to encourage and edify them as well as to receive edification. Paul told the Thessalonians, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" (1 Thess. 5:11). We cannot fulfill that instruction when alone.
As a Pentecostal church, the Assemblies of God believes in the operation of the gifts of the Spirit in public worship. The Holy Spirit manifests the gifts through various believers, as He chooses, for the edification of the assembled body. Meeting together is absolutely essential for such edification. "All these [Gifts] are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body" (1 Cor. 12:11,12).
Attendance at church with a body of believers is also essential to our fulfilling the command of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19,20). Although one can theoretically be a witness by himself during the week without attending church, in reality that does not happen. It is the dynamic of a group of believers, encouraging, challenging, and strengthening each other that will reach the lost for Christ.
We do not go to church regularly to be saved; we go because we are saved. The question is not "Can a believer maintain his Christianity and develop spiritually without attending church? Instead, the real question is "Can a believer afford to lose all the benefits and rewards that come from obeying the inspired command of Scripture not to stop meeting together with fellow believers?"
It is the responsibility of local church leadership to plan and conduct services so that God can speak and manifest His presence to each individual gathered for worship. In the course of a service, each worshiper should be afforded opportunity to experience the loving call of the Lord to a complete commitment to the kingdom of God.
Unfortunately, there may be some local churches that do not experience such a presence and power of the Holy Spirit of God in their services. What should a disappointed believer then do? Rather than leaving the church and having no fellowship with believers, the dedicated believer will accept the situation as a spiritual challenge to intercede with heaven in behalf of the church. God responds to the persistent intercessory prayer of a righteous person (James 5:16). We are all part of the body of Christ, sent to edify the group He has placed us in. Faithfulness in church attendance and intercessory prayer will produce an exciting worship atmosphere.
The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise specified.