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There are many different cases where biblical Christianity and the institutions of Christendom are not the same. More than I'd like to be forced to spell out here.

Either way, why should a Christian go to a church? Wouldn't reading the bible, praying, and an occasional conversation (Matthew 18:20) be good enough?

The bible appears to be saying, don't worry about going to church here:

Matthew 6:5 ESV

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love (A)to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. (B)Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

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closed as not constructive by David, Seek forgiveness, Caleb May 4 '13 at 13:30

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Sorry for the vote to close, but this looks to me like it falls somewhere between a "Truth" question and a Pastoral Advice question. – David May 4 '13 at 0:36
Ironically, Matthew 18:20 is in a passage about church discipline not "occasional conversation". – Paul A. Clayton May 4 '13 at 3:18
I don't see how Matthew 6:5 says anything at all about going to church. How is standing in the synagogues and street corners, so that you may be seen by others as you pray, the same as going to church? At most, it's saying "don't go to church to look good." – Flimzy May 4 '13 at 5:11
According to who? You said yourself there are more positions on this than can reasonable be expected to be spelled out here, and without a construct for judging correct answers this is a discussion/debate question, not something we can bring around to a concrete answer here. – Caleb May 4 '13 at 13:32
@Caleb, you're right. – The Freemason May 4 '13 at 23:12
up vote 5 down vote accepted

There are tons of ways to answer this question. Here are a few reasons:

First, we're told we should:

Hebrews 10:23-25:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Second, I think within the church we learn how to love one another. People in the church are... well... people, so they're by definition going to be just as flawed and screwed up as anybody else. This is going to cause friction, and is going to force us to decide if we want to give people grace, or if we want to judge them for the areas they fall short. In the church we can learn patience in an environment that offers grace.

Thirdly, it's a way we can encourage other believers as well. You can't encourage another believer if you never spend any time with them. Also, the church gives us confidence in our walk with God. People outside the church may not understand why we do the things we do or don't do the things we don't do. People inside the church do. As an example, if my boss asks me to do something unethical, he may not understand why I choose not to do something like that. If, as a result, I lose my job, then the church is there to support and encourage me during those times. I'm not just "out on my own".

I'm certain there are tons more reasons, but those are a few.

As to the verse you quoted, from Matthew 6:5, this is referring to specifically showy displays of piety, not honest, heartfelt displays of affection towards God from a soul that has been completely and totally crushed by the law and is crying out for God to have mercy. In other words, it's about self-righteousness, not approaching God as a beggar asking for the righteousness that only He can give through Christ. The church should be a gathering of those beggars looking for a handout from God.

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Matt. 18:20 For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.”. This also is one more reason. – Seek forgiveness May 4 '13 at 4:25
@jayyeshu I'd argue the opposite, Matt. 18:20 suggest that two of three people is good enough. I've never been to a church with only 2 or 3 people. – The Freemason May 4 '13 at 23:23
That verse is in the context of church discipline, not so much a reason to be involved in the church. It's certainly not a very good verse to put to music and play in a wedding. :) – David Morton May 5 '13 at 2:37
@danandrews you should come to a prison with me sometime- that's how the residents have do church. – Affable Geek May 6 '13 at 0:47
@AffableGeek I believe that it is better to meet in prison with fellow true believers than to meet in a mega church full of hypocrites. I'm not trying to "spread my theology", however I feel that you and me sitting on my back porch sipping sweet tea, reading the bible, and discussing is more productive that meeting in a church building. I do though, attend a church regularly and enable a start-up church by having them meet in my side project (local community theater that my wife and I reopened). I just don't think it's the only way or the best way. – The Freemason May 6 '13 at 12:38

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