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Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many governors and mayors in the US have banned people from attending church in-person, but religious leaders say church attendance is vital to faith – let’s see why and what the Bible says.

What the Bible says about church and gathering

Christianity is about having a relationship with Jesus Christ as your personal savior.

Jesus himself said:

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

– Matthew 18:20

This statement by Jesus seems to underscore the idea that the spirit and presence of Jesus Christ occurs when people gather in his name. In other words, when people attend church, the spirit of Christ is among them.

Distinguished English Christian theologian and academic, Charles Ellicott (1819–1905) said this about the above Bible verse: “‘Where two or three…’ The true meaning of the words is well embodied in the well-known patristic axiom, Ubi tres, ibi Ecclesia (“Where three are there is a church”).

Scholars also connect Jesus statement with this passage from Hebrews:

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

– Hebrews 10:25

There’s more than meets the eye in the above passage. Scholars, such as Ellicott who said: “This neglect was the first step towards apostasy.” Other scholars identify that, as we get closer to the end times, the fact that people will fall away from the church will lead to further apostasy and this can plainly be seen as “the signs of the times” that the return of Christ is near.

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,”

–1 Timothy 4:1

The vital need for Christian fellowship

Christian fellowship keeps Christians focused on Christ and upon the mission of Christianity.

“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:”

–Hebrews 10:24

We need the encouragement and support we get from like-minded individuals, in this case – other Christians.

“But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

–Hebrews 3:13

Religious leaders fear people will lose faith without church in-person or at least online

Various religious leaders advocate that people need church. In-person attendance is the most valuable. However, where community leaders have blocked that from happening, religious leaders say people should strive then to attend services online to not lose out on valuable teaching and the sense of community with other Christians.

Pastor Lynn Pryor at Fair Haven Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Tennessee, wrote a thought-provoking piece entitled “Church Involvement is Not an Option.” In the article, Pastor Pryor says: “The church doesn’t save you, but you can’t grow in Christ without His church.” He quotes the apostle Paul in first Corinthians.

“and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.”

– 1 Corinthians 3:23

Christ is the head of the church

“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”

–Colossians 1:18

“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,”

–Ephesians 1:22

Because we belong to Christ, we belong to one another.

Pastor Pryor says: “he [the apostle Paul] meant you belong to Christ, I belong to Christ, and therefore, we belong to each other. I am responsible for you, and you are responsible for me.”

“So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

–Romans 12:5

We need the gifts we share with one another

“You need my spiritual gift—and I need yours,” Pastor Pryor says. “No believer by himself has all the spiritual gifts.”

“God calls us to work together to carry out the ministry of the church,” Pryor adds. “You need my gift of teaching, and I need your gift of leadership. And we both need someone else’s gift of service.”

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

–1 Corinthians 12:4-7