Our experience of church can vary dramatically depending on the denomination, congregation, country and a variety of factors. But what unites the church is that it is the gathering of a body of believers in God's presence.
In Europe, church attendance has been declining. A study of church attendance revealed that Church of England weekly attendance has dropped to below 1 million for the first time. But what stops us from going to church? And does it matter if we don't go?
There are a number of reasons why as Christians we can stop attending church. Prioritising our work or social activities can mean that it appears that there is no time in our schedules for it. We shouldn't choose our church to fit around our lives, but there are opportunities to attend church weekly on other occasions than Sunday morning. Sometimes the business of our lives is not what is stopping us. If we are passionate about something we usually don't want to miss it, and so the case should be with church. There is no such thing as a perfect church but with so much variety available, there really is something for everyone. Treating church as a "spectator's sport" can also make it easy for us to avoid going. Finding a way to contribute such as joining a choir, meeting for Bible study or organising a prayer group helps us feel more a part of the family, which is key.
But, no matter what the reason, at the root of refusing to go to church is often a lack of realisation of how important church is. Belonging to the church is an essential part of being a Christian. Surrounding ourselves with other Christians enables us to "consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds," (Hebrews 10:24). The value of the church is outlined again in Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her". Matthew 18:20 illustrates two reasons why we should go to church, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." When we gather together as community of Christians in the name of Jesus he is present. Although Jesus' presence is not limited to within the walls of church, he is there when we come together and that is reason enough to go.