In this day of hyper-individualism and pietism, it is commonplace to see private exercises of devotion, acts of kindness and service, and many other lawful practices exalted above and beyond the ministry given by God as the appointed means of grace by which He draws and develops His beloved people, Word & Sacrament. It is quite popular, regrettably, to hear of ‘Christians’ who have abandoned ‘organized religion’ and take up the mantra of ‘I can worship God anywhere.’ We confess, however, much differently from such, that Christ’s Kingdom is far superior to these aforementioned practices and that -while these acts are good in themselves- they cannot compare to the public worship as ordained by God. We must believe, with the Psalmist, “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah,” (Psa. 82).
Our Westminster Divines very well understood this modernly neglected concept, thus penning the following from Chapter 25 of the Westminster Confession of Faith:
II. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law) consists of all those, throughout the world, that profess the true religion,a and of their children;b and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ,c the house and family of God,d out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.e
a. Psa 2:8; Rom 15:9-12; 1 Cor 1:2; 12:12-13; Rev 7:9. • b. Gen 3:15; 17:7; Ezek 16:20-21; Acts 2:39; Rom 11:16; 1 Cor 7:14. • c. Isa 9:7; Mat 13:47. • d. Eph 2:19; 3:15. • e. Acts 2:47.
III. Unto this catholic visible Church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and doth by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.aa. Isa 59:21; Mat 28:19-20; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11-13.
Here is a wonderful quotation from our beloved Matthew Henry speaking of the importance of church attendance and diligent care for Christ’s Kingdom:
Those that are cut off from public ordinances are likely to lose all religion, and will by degrees cease from fearing the Lord. Though the form and profession of godliness are kept up by many without the life and power of it, yet the life and power of it will not long be kept up without the form and profession. You take away grace if you take away the means of grace.