Is it necessary to attend church every Sunday or can a person attend every other Sunday? In addition, can one keep the Sabbath holy without attending church? Please show scriptural support for any answer. Thank you.
This is a question that is often asked by church members, and there are usually two reasons why it is asked: either someone is trying to justify regularly absenting themselves from worship, or they are trying to convince others that they should be in church every Sunday. Since you asked for biblical support, let's start there, but it is also important that we look at what often leads people to believe that weekly attendance at church is not so important.
First, then, some biblical data. Perhaps the clearest reference comes from the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 10:24-25 instructs us "And let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Corporate worship, the writer argues, is not something which a believer should neglect/forsake.
Now, a question that naturally arises here is: What exactly constitutes neglect of corporate worship? Perhaps a better way to ask the question (and a way that reveals the importance of worship) is this: What in our lives could be so important as to trump a meeting between God's people and God, a meeting in which God instructs us in his Word, and we offer our sacrifices of praise? As we search the Scriptures, we come up empty. In fact the opposite seems to be true. When we scan the Psalms, for example, we see the Psalmist yearning for a meeting with the Lord (Ps. 65:4; 84:2), and calling God's people into the courts of the Lord (Ps. 95:1-2; 100:4). It is his heart's desire to come into the Lord's presence and worship. There's nothing more important that he can do. To neglect the worship of God, therefore, is to give something a higher priority than the worship of God. To focus simply on frequency, then, seems to miss the point! The point is one of priority. Since the church, following the practice of the apostles (see Acts 20:7), has recognized Sunday as the Christian Sabbath, the day in which we are to be caught up in the worship of God, there can be no higher priority than to gather with God's people on that day for worship. And so, is it necessary to attend church every Sunday? The answer must surely be yes, because God has forbidden the neglect of it, and to neglect it is to treat the day as common, not holy.
There are times, of course, when we are providentially hindered from going to church. We may be sick or taking care of someone who is sick (think of doctors or nurses, moms and dads). Our car may have broken down. These situations do not constitute a neglect of worship, but are simply a consequence of living in a fallen world where things do not always go as planned.
In closing, we should note that often our tendency to neglect worship stems from an inability to see our need: our need as spiritually poor, spiritually hungry sinners. And if we are honest with ourselves we know that we cannot get such nourishment from a "me, myself, and my Bible" mentality.
"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.
The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.
At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)
The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.
While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.
You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.
Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been editedall personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expandedto make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.