A. W. Pink years ago wrote an article about church attendance, suggesting that it would be better to stay home and simply read the Bible with your family than to attend a professing Christian church where the gospel is not preached.
While it is true that to sit under a ministry that does not believe the Bible to be the Word of God and does not preach Christ is not spiritually productive, but is counter-productive, still Pink was only half right. It is not best or even right to attend a liberal church, where the preaching is foolishness and worldly, rather than biblical and Christ-honoring. But his teaching on this has done much damage to many believers in giving them an excuse to not even be in a church.
Today most believers are not in an isolated situation geographically. And Pink wasn't either. Even though he lived in the remote Hebrides Islands of Scotland, there was a vibrant and solidly biblical ministry right in his town, with which he refused to identify.
Pink was wrong in his views and choice, as he led he and his wife to not be in any church for around seven years, while living in Stonoway, Scotland. They stayed home on Sundays, even though the fragrant and wonderful ministry of Kenneth Macrae was occurring right in town. Anyone who has read the Diary of Kenneth Macrae, published by the Banner of Truth, knows the evident rich ministry that Macrae exercised for years in Stornoway.
Yet Pink refused to worship there, and even refused to make time to meet Macrae, even though both of them were well-known ministers and solid in the doctrinal truths of the evangelical faith. Nothing satisfied Pink during this time, it seems, even though there were balanced and earnest ministries being exercised all over Scotland and other places. Instead, Pink stayed home on Sundays and read the Bible.
Is this right at all? Can it be justified? Yes and No.
Yes, IF (and only if) a person is living so far from any evangelical church that travel to such church is literally impossible. Their circumstances are such that, while they want to be in church, they have no ability at all to be there, either physically or geographically. In such cases--an isolated missionary or a farmer or rancher who lives 140 miles from any evangelical church--such cases would allow for staying home and listen to an online sermon, reading a sermon out loud to the family, conducting worship for you and the family, and inviting neighbors to come. Isn't such a situation the perfect setting for a house church? If there is no church, start one. What constitutes a church? Two things--the presence of Christ and the presence of Christians. That's it. Nothing else is needed to begin.
Yes, it is all right to stay home and read your Bible IF (and only if) a person is a missionary in a state or nation where Christianity is illegal and their attending a public place of worship will jeopardize the lives of other believers they minister to. There are situations where it is ill-advised for a missionary to gather with the locals in worship.
But the second part of the question remains to be answered. Is it all right to just stay home on Sundays?
NO--not if you have an evangelical church that is accessible at all to you, even if it is 100 miles away. There is no excuse for not driving to a church, even if it is a real drive each Sunday. I personally know believers that have made the choice to drive 2 1/2 hours one way every Sunday because they want to worship with God's people, hear the Scriptures preached, and have true fellowship with the saints. Distance is not an excuse, if they can get there. They go, they stay the entire day, they come home in the evening. They don't let fuel expense be an excuse. They make it a priority. Why? Because identifying with God's people in corporate worship and witness is not optional for them. They need a true church for their spiritual survival because it is vitally important and biblical.
Pink was wrong in his choice to not worship at Macrae's church. The tragedy is that lots of people today have used Pink's example and teaching about "better to stay home" as their excuse to not drive across town or to the next town to be in a biblical church. So they stay home, with their attitude of superiority and in isolation, while their family is lonely and spiritually drying up because they don't need God's people. They only need themselves.
What is wise and best and biblical? Find a biblical church, the best one you can find, even if one has to drive a distance. There is no excuse if we want to be a biblical Christian.
Above I stated, "Stay home, rather than attending a bad, liberal church." But don't just stay home. Find a biblical church, even if it means moving or driving four hours each Lord's Day. A two hour drive on Sunday morning to be with a bibical church all day is well worth the drive home after a full day or worship and true fellowship. You then have given your full day to Christ and His people.
So if you live on one of the Fiji islands, and the nearest church is a six hour boat ride, then you have liberty to stay home and read your Bible. But if not, get to a church, a biblical church, whatever it may cost you. God will honor that choice.
- Mack Tomlinson