THE REV. JOHN HOLZHUTER, chaplain, Ottawa University: Much more than just a label of a building or the definition for a time allotment, church is the tangible pronouncement of Christians in relationship. As translated from the Greek work ekklesia (“the called out ones”), church denotes a sense of active assembly, common identity and blended family. Neither an event nor a time-out from the rest of our week, it is a constant, living fellowship that transforms individualized Bible study into conjoined Bible practice.
Scripturally, the church is a space to burnish our faith (Proverbs 27:17) and share trials with others (Galatians 6:2) while we wait together for Christ’s return (1 Timothy 3:14-15) in a place of unified strength (Matthew 16:18). It is where one can connect, support and nurture all parts of the body of Christ; bend knees and offer thanksgiving in the company of sinners, saints and the gamut of humanness in-between.
Is going to church necessary for Christian salvation? No. But it brokers opportunities to soften life’s sharpness, buttress sagging emotions and embolden flagging faith. While pew time served earns neither good behavior credits nor individual bonus points toward heavenly redemption, the gathering of two or three in God’s name does more than invoke his constant presence.
Purpose, growth and understandings are honed through shared human care and common Christian perspectives. The journey toward salvation proves less daunting and ambivalent when one is not alone. Church serves as an opportunity to trek extra miles with support, encouragement and companionship from those on the same quest toward grace and redemption.
PASTOR AARON LAVENDER, Grace Baptist Church: Is going to church really necessary? Is it a necessary requirement for biblical salvation? I’d like to answer this question from two perspectives.
First, according to the Bible, salvation is based entirely on God’s son, Jesus Christ, dying on the cross and rising from the dead to deliver us from our sins (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). To become a Christian a person has to receive Christ into his heart by faith (John 1:12).
Christian salvation is therefore purely an act of God’s grace received by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Second, once a person becomes a Christian, he is obligated to obey God’s commands. One of God’s commands for Christians is that of church attendance. The Bible commands Christians not to “forsake assembling together as is the manner of some” (Hebrews 10:25). The inspiration or motivation behind this command is the imminent return of Jesus Christ for his church (“as we see the day approaching”).
No, going to church is not necessary for Christian salvation. People should attend church not to become Christians but because they are Christians and want to obey the one who provided for their salvation.
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