For many years, I used Hebrews 10:25 as the catchall reason for why we should go to church:
I concluded that we should go to church because the Bible says to not be like those who've stopped assembling together. Hearing preaching, singing songs, etc., are helpful and important to the soul as well. But is that really what the purpose of church is all about?
For many Christians, church has been reduced to a weekly program. It's something we do rather than something we are. We're like spectators who go to movies or watch sporting events. We go, we watch and listen, then we go home. But this perspective is so far removed from what Christ had in mind it's almost laughable.
Let's revisit that verse in Hebrews and read it in context:
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
The rest of the chapter talks about not falling away from God but believing to the saving of the soul. But do you see the important element of participation? The purpose of assembling together is to edify, encourage and even provoke each other to love and good works. Notice that the verse isn't specific to pastors, but every believer is to share the responsibility of provoking and exhorting each other, not just a select few. Does this describe your overall church experience? Many of us would be surprised to read this instruction from Paul...
How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. (1 Corinthians 14:26)
Part of the reason why people are leaving the static traditional church setting in favor of something more interactive and biblical is because people are hungry for purpose and spiritual fulfillment. They're tired of merely sitting on pews watching others perform without any invitation to contribute week after week. Christians are waking up to the reality of participatory fellowship. They want to see the power of God and to exercise the gifts that God has given them. Teachers want to teach. Prophets want to prophesy. Exhorters want to exhort and don't we all want to see miracles, signs and wonders like the early church did in the Book of Acts?
Let's take this a bit further. What's the point of encouraging one another on to love and to good works? Is it to feel good about ourselves or is there a deeper purpose?
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)
We are to be salt and light to the flavorless, dark world we live in so people will see our good works and turn to God. Sinners don't care that we “go to church.” They want to see power! They want something real - not a ritual! They want to see the church that Jesus said the gates of hell won't prevail against! Where is that church???
What are we showing people? What is our witness to the world around us? Do our co-workers and neighbors see godly men and women who live their faith, heal the sick and speak the truth in love? Or do they see people who live just like they do except for a couple of hours on Sunday? Do we bring light into the room or does the room lighten when we leave?
What is the purpose of the church? To be the body of Christ! How did Christ act when he walked in the flesh? Consider this brief summation:
...God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Acts 10:38) May people say that about us!
Using a football game analogy, I liken the gathering of the church to the huddle. The church rallies around the Quarterback, Jesus Christ. We encourage each other on to the next play. Then we go back out onto the playing field of the world, full of the Holy Ghost and power, to be witnesses unto Christ.