Yesterday (Sunday 22nd March) was a strange day for Christians all over the country and much of the world. At a local level, apart from being closed for communion services in neighbouring parishes, it was, as far as I am aware, the first Lord’s Day where there was no worship service held in Kinloch since the Church opened in 1881. There was a solemnity about the empty car park and the unlit Church building – a potent illustration of God’s judgment. I hope to delve further into that in a future post.

For now, however, I want to consider another subject: why is it strange for a Christian not to be in Church on Sunday? Why does it bother us? Is Church really needful? You can, after all, be a Christian without going to Church. We have Bibles in our homes, good books on our shelves and sermons on our iPads. Indeed, I can think of some in our own district who are now sadly housebound and who haven’t been out to Church in years and, yet, they are evidently Christians.

And, yet, though that be the case, there is an unease in the true Christian when he is unable to get to Church. Even those who are housebound feel this to an extent; they know a lack in their experience; a void which is very difficult, if not impossible, to fill. Why is this?


I would argue that there are two particular reasons for it. First, we are very clearly commanded to gather together as believers. The author to the Hebrews said, ‘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 you see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25) To assemble together as believers is a command and is, therefore, part of our obedience to God Himself. Jesus said, ‘If you love me, keep my commandments.’ Church-going is an expression of this love for Christ and His body, the Church. To purposely neglect Church services, therefore, is sinful. To have no Church to go to, as is our present situation, is not sinful, but it is certainly strange.


But there is another reason why it is strange for a Christian not to go to Church, and that is the fact that humans are social beings – we yearn for company. God made us for companionship and that is why He called us to come together – for our own good. It was never good for man, or woman, to be alone. Isolation is sometimes necessary, but it is never natural. That is, primarily, why most people live in cities, towns and villages and not in isolation – not, simply, for the economic benefits but for the social benefits. Humans are also familial beings – we have a sense of belonging and are intimately tied to those who share our blood and our ancestry. By extension, we long for the company of those with whom we have common ground, who share our interests and our ambitions, our history and our purpose.

The Church is a family. This is an important concept to grasp in a society where the family unit has been denigrated and has, as a result, largely disintegrated. The Church has, in every generation, acted as a family structure. For some, it’s the only real family that they have. The Psalmist could say, ‘When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the LORD will take care of me.’ (Psalm 27:10) When we lose our natural brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, the Church-family remains our family. It is an imperfect family, as is every family, because it is made up of sinners, but it is still precious and enormously important to the believer.


It’s important to realise that this isn’t just a fuzzy, feel-good concept without any real substance. The Bible tells us that, if we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, that God is our adoptive Father. The Westminster Divines, in writing the Shorter Catechism, described the benefits of Christianity as not just justification (being made right with God) and sanctification (being made holy before God), but also adoption (being made children of God).

This has great implications for the way that the Christian approaches God – he/she can now do so with boldness as well as reverence; indeed, he/she approaches God with a combination of both. But it also has implications for our attendance at Church services because, when we gather together to worship, we are gathering with others who have been adopted into God’s family – we are meeting with those who are legally our brothers and sisters. In fact, according to Scripture, our family bonds aren’t just legal, they are also organic – when we are ‘born again,’ God changes our nature by putting His Holy Spirit into us. Because He has done this in the life of every believer, every Christian has the same spiritual DNA. The result is that those who are your legal brothers and sisters in Christ through the judicial process of adoption are also your natural brothers and sisters in Christ because they are indwelt by the same Spirit of Christ.


A Church service, then, is a family gathering. Here, spiritual brothers and sisters assemble to worship the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We may differ in many respects – in background, race, colour, wealth and privilege – but we are united in the one family, with all that that entails in terms of mutual love and privilege, by virtue of the fact that we are Christians.

As such, the Church has physically gathered in every generation. Old Testament believers went together to the temple. So, the Psalmist could say, ‘I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.’ (Psalm 122:1) Jesus, Himself, attended the synagogue which is, literally, the assembling together of people. The early Church ‘continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.’ (Acts 2:42) Fellowship, or togetherness, has ever been a central and much-loved part of Christianity.

I have met some who, for differing reasons, have missed family gatherings – weddings, anniversaries, birthdays etc. – and have been grieved by their absence. Their absence, I’m sure was also grieved by others. So it ought to be with Church. It is painful for us to be separated from the physical fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Yesterday felt strange because it was strange. Indeed, it was an unnatural thing to be separated from the Lord’s people on the Lord’s Day. Some have felt this strangeness before, when locked in due to illness or some other factor. But, now, every true Christian whose Church has been compelled to shut its doors is in the same boat. If we did not sympathise with the housebound Christian before, we are learning that sympathy now, the hard way.

Some of us have, undoubtedly, leaned too heavily on Church services to prop up our Christianity, and not heavily enough on God Himself. As such, this trial – and a trial it is – will shatter some Christian professions which were no more than professions. God forbid that that would be true of us.

Our hope is that, as our props are taken away, we might taste the sweetness of greater reliance on the Saviour Himself. If, by God’s grace, we come through the trial with our profession intact and our garments unstained, we will hopefully have learned by sore experience the preciousness of physical fellowship with God’s people and will ensure that our Church attendance is no longer characterised by laxity as, perhaps, it has been hitherto.


It is important for us, however, to do our duty in the strange situation in which we find ourselves. Our physical Church services have been suspended, but the Church is still active and can never be suspended. Personally, we ought to be searching the Scriptures, listening to (or watching) and worshipfully participating in services online, pleading with God in prayer, and seeking to read God’s providence and be students of it.

Corporately, we ought to keep in touch with one another through phone or other technologies and ensuring that we are encouraging one another, strengthening the weak hands and confirming the feeble knees. It is our duty to ‘Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ.’ (Galatians 6:2)

Finally, it is our duty to speak into a Christ-less world. People’s worlds are crumbling around them and many are beginning to see the uncertainty and emptiness of all that they have believed in and relied on. That is not the case with the Christian. The foundation of God stands sure; He is our rock and He has not changed. We still have a hope. See, then, that you are bold in witnessing for Him and that you are ‘ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you for a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.’ (1 Peter 3:15) Our Church services have ceased for a time and that is strange, but the work of the Church goes on.