A few years ago, I was inaccurately labeled an “antinomian” by a friend. An antinomian is someone who believes that Christians are not obligated to obey any moral law. It was an incorrect label, because I believe that while Christians are not under the Law, but under Grace, we are obligated to the “law of Christ” (Gal 6:2).
We are not to use grace as a license to live however we want (Gal 5:13). The very fact that Paul and other church leaders used imperative (i.e., commands) and subjunctive (i.e., “let us…”) verb tenses in their epistles proves that there are some things that believers should do. A problem arises when we confuse cultural mandates and Biblical mandates.
A case in point: Going to church.
Meeting with other believers is very important. In fact it is necessary if we intend to grow in our faith. Our meeting together helps others grow in their faith, too. (Heb 10:24-25). But does this mean that we have to be in church every time the doors are open?
In many churches, there are multiple opportunities to meet for church services and Bible studies each week. Should church members be at the church building for all of these opportunities? I have seen people act extremely judgmental when somebody misses church. However, “twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday” is a relatively modern tradition. For instance, Sunday School was started in the 1780s to provide religious education to children on their one day off from work in the factories, as well as to keep the children from getting into trouble with the law on their day off. A mandate to be in Sunday School every Sunday is hardly a Biblical mandate!
On several occasions, a church member has approached me, apologizing for not being at a church service or Bible study due to sickness, exhaustion from working the previous night, etc. I have often responded with something like, “No need to apologize; you were where you were supposed to be.”
This may not sound like something you would expect a pastor to say, but I sincerely believe that it’s ok to not be in church every time the church doors are open. However, this isn’t to say that people don’t need to go to church. But sometimes people need to be in their bed instead of church. Sometimes.
It comes down to a heart issue.
John 10:27 tells us that we are responsible to hear and obey Jesus’ voice.
If a Christian feels they have no obligation to go to church at all, or only when it’s “convenient”, I would wonder about their commitment to grow in their faith and what “church membership” means to them. I would encourage them to listen to their Master and obey with all their heart.
However, if a Christian occasionally needs to recover from a long night at work, or wants to be at the deer lease on opening day of deer season (once a year), I would encourage them to listen to their Master and obey with all their heart.