FellowshipI often hear it said that “we don’t go to church for people, but for God.”  This is usually said in the context of addressing interpersonal problems at church: “Just because Sister Susie did you wrong, that doesn’t mean you should stop going to church.  God is still there, so you should come to church for Him.”

While I understand the intent behind such a statement, I think it is almost entirely backward.  While it’s true that we go to church for God, the primary purpose for attending a local assembly is for the people present, not for God.  After all, most things we do for God at church – worship, pray, sing, read Scripture – can be done by oneself in the privacy of their home.  What we cannot do by ourselves, however, is experience Christian community and minister to the needs of one another.  We need to assemble with other believers for that – what is commonly called “going to church.”

Paul made this point abundantly clear.  He described the church as a body of believers.  Each member of that body has been endowed with certain gifts, which are intended to be used to edify other members of the body (Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 12).  Each member of Christ’s body is “joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, [and] when each part is working properly, [it] makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph 4:16, ESV) Just like our own bodies require several members to function and to function properly, likewise the body of Christ requires many members to function and to functional properly.  Each member is just that – a single member – and thus incomplete without other believers.  You may be an arm in the body.  As such, there’s not much you can do on your own.  You need the legs, feet, torso, and hands to be effective.  Likewise, the hands have need of you if they hope to be effective.  Only when we come together as one do we truly constitute the body of Christ, and only when we come together can we share our mutual gifts so that we might receive mutual benefit.  We come together to care for one another, encourage one another, weep with one another, and rejoice with one another (Rom 12:15; 1 Cor 12:25-26; Heb 10:25).  If we fail to interact with one another, we fail to have church.

So contrary to the popular slogan, we do go to church for people.  In fact, if we are not going to church for people, then we are going to church for the wrong reasons.