Why Is Active Membership in Local Church Essential to Following Jesus Christ?

A parishioner cries as he signs a song of worship in the 7,000-seat Willow Creek Community church during a Sunday service in South Barrington, Illinois, November 20, 2005. Institutions like Willow Creek and Houston's Lakewood Church, each drawing 20,000 or more on a weekend, offer not just a vast, shared attraction but a path that tries to link individuals on a faith-sustaining one-to-one level beyond the crowd, observers and worshipers say. | (Photo: Reuters/John Gress)
Sam Allberry in a YouTube video. | (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube)
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Do you have to go to church every weekend and be a member to follow Jesus Christ? In fact, it's essential, says Sam Allberry of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in the United Kingdom, and explains why in a video message.

In the book of Hebrews in the New Testament, the writer warns his readers not to stop going to church, as some were in the habit of doing at the time, says Allberry, Global Speaker at RZIM in Maidenhead, in a video posted on the YouTube channel of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The writer of Hebrews then urges believers to encourage each other, Allberry says, adding, "In other words, the opposite of not going to church is encouraging one another."

"One of the main things that happens at church, one of the main reasons we need church, is we need encouragement as Christian believers," he explains.

We are not designed to live our Christian lives on our own, Allberry tells the viewers. "God has so ordered things that actually one of the things that keeps you going as a Christian is the encouragement and the input of the church family. And one of the things that keep them going is your encouragement toward them."

Such encouragement cannot be given or received if you do not go to church regularly, as it needs "deep relationships," he says. "And, therefore, you have to be a member of your church," as going to church occasionally won't make it happen.

Allberry concluded with the statement: "If you think that you can do the Christian life kind of with church semi on the side, you are massively overestimating your own spiritual strength and capability. And, in fact, you're saying God's wrong when it comes to you, that you don't need the input and the encouragement and the accountability."

Attending church service has other benefits, too, according to studies.

A recent study found that American women who attend a church service once a week or more are five times less likely to commit suicide compared with those who never go to a religious gathering. Attendance at religious services once per week or more was associated with an approximately five-fold lower rate of suicide compared with never attending religious services, found the study, in which 89,708 women aged 30 to 55 years participated from across the United States, published in July in JAMA Psychiatry.

Another study, conducted by a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and released earlier this month, found that married couples who attend church services together are more likely to live longer, are less likely to be depressed, and less likely to get divorced.

According to the study, titled "Religion and Health: A Synthesis," conducted by Tyler J. VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, religious service attendance is also "associated with greater marital stability — or more specifically, with a lower likelihood of divorce."

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