Gathering has become very controversial in the church.

Two years ago, it would have been hard to imagine this debate.

“Of course we need to gather!” the exasperated answer would come. But now, there’s a flip flop and groaning.

“Oh, I don’t see the point,” says one side. “I pray before meals – I still believe in Jesus! I just don’t see the point of gathering.”

Another side might have a tendency to flash indignation or frustration, “No! It says in Scripture that we need to keep meeting together! I can’t imagine being a Christian and not attending church. We have to gather!”

This is a question that’s grown beyond masks, or social distancing, or community safety – there is a fundamental disagreement on the value of getting together with other Christians, in large or in small groups. Perhaps it is dishearteningly ironic that gathering – a mark of unity – has polarized and fractured churches. But the question still stands: do we need to gather? And if so, why?

At Woodlands Church, we absolutely believe that gathering in community is fundamental to spiritual growth. We seek to gather in large groups and in small groups and trust that in our times together, the Holy Spirit shapes us to be like Jesus and sends us out on mission throughout our community and in the world.

The more we gather, the better. Circumstances, situations, and life stages certainly affect our ability to gather – a parent of young children faces different challenges to gathering than a retired couple or a college-aged single. But the testimony of believers throughout the generations has consistently been: the more intentionally we focus on spending time around other believers with an intent to grow and follow Jesus, the more consistently our lives will reflect His goodness.

Multiple times we have been told, “You know, when everything was shut down because of COVID, I started to believe that I was ok with just the online world – I was fine following Jesus with the individual tools that I have. But since returning – I’ve realized that I was wrong. I needed to gather.”

So, here are six reasons that we need church community, how gathering can help us find that community:


A key passage is Hebrews 10:21-25. There’s a lot of context needed, but the clarity of verse 25 is unmistakable: “Do not neglect to gather together… but encourage each other.” When we’re together and in community, we’re encouraged both actively and passively.

We’re actively encouraged when we hear stories of God’s faithfulness and we see individuals responding to brokenness with steadfastness. We’re encouraged as we hear testimonies and reports of God’s goodness and the truth of God proclaimed.

And we’re encouraged passively when our neighbors sing loudly, and when we hear their passion and joy. We see friends from a distance and are reminded that we’re not walking alone. The community – the gathered church – lifts our hearts in encouragement.


Exhortation is similar to encouragement, but it has less to do with lifting our hearts and more to do with challenging our behaviors and attitudes. In Hebrews 3:13, we’re encouraged to, “exhort one another daily… so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.” This is a mutual process that takes place in the context of community.

Far too often, we fall into the mindset that exhortation – a call to deeper dependence and faithfulness to God – is the task of the preacher (and after all, we can listen to any number of phenomenal preachers online!). But Hebrews speaks of exhortation as interpersonal and private – it takes place in close community and proximity to each other. Profound exhortation happens when we’re fully known by those around us, allowing them to speak truth into our lives – loving Jesus and seeking to walk like Him, together.

Biblical exhortation takes place in community.


If you’re looking for a fascinating biblical word study, consider the word, “remember” throughout the Old Testament. Over and over again the community is challenged to, “remember the wondrous works God has done” (Psalm 105:5). Our memories are prone to forget!

And Jesus, when he institutes the Lord’s supper, says that we’re to take the elements in community, “in remembrance of me” (I Cor. 11:24). The Lord’s Supper is a communal act, taken to help us remember. Remember what?

We’re to help one another remember all that God has done in and through us! We do this through worship, through proclamation, through reflecting on the Word. We do this through sharing what God is doing in our lives, and by listening and reflecting. This is perhaps no more profoundly exemplified than during communion at Woodlands; on a regular basis, we gather together and we pause and remember what Jesus has done for us.


Even as gathering together helps lift our hearts and minds, it also helps draw us towards holiness and the good life as God designed it to be lived. Sin corrupts our understanding of the world, and even the most faithful Christ-follower will find herself drifting at points. Healthy, biblical communities will seek to bring conviction and redirection to those lives.

I Corinthians 5-6 is written to a community in need of bringing conviction. Instead of confronting sinful behavior, the church in the city of Corinth was celebrating it. No, Paul writes, instead they are to act with love and bring conviction, so that sin can be confronted and freedom can be found. In Paul’s following letters to the same church, he rejoices that the conviction did its work, and he encourages the church to support and restore the church members – “you must forgive and comfort him” (2 Cor. 2:7).

As we value God’s design for the world, we’ll embrace healthy conviction brought through close community which can speak into our lives.


Throughout the New Testament, we see examples of the church rallying together and supporting one another. As he left them, Paul encouraged the church in Ephesus to, “help the weak by laboring like this and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, because he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “(Acts 20:35). They’re to support one another, giving and caring through tragedy and struggle and hardship.

A beautiful and full example is what the church was in the days immediately after the Spirit came: “They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:45-47). This is what the church first was… for 2,000 years, Christ-followers have been chasing this vision of support and growth.

Woodlands is filled with testimonies of small groups and care groups who have prayed for, given to, and supported one another through loss, tragedy, circumstances, and hard situations. It isn’t always done perfectly, but a healthy vision of church community involves faithful support and care.


And through it all, when we gather, we gather to worship.

Don’t just hear singing in that! Music is a magnificent gift from God that somehow seems to resonate our hearts closer with His, but it’s by no means the extent of worship. Worship is our hearts rejoicing in God – and we do this through hearing truth, hearing testimony, proclaiming truth, hearing Scripture, and so much more.

Colossians 3:15-16 says, “And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” This is a picture of worship: God’s Word dwelling in hearts, and leading to rejoicing, peace, and thankfulness in community.


Gathering is a gift from God. We should not neglect His good gifts!

Ultimately, as a church, we aspire to pursue life in Christ together, and so we’re committed to gather consistently in two ways. First, every Sunday morning at 8:45 am or 10:30 am, we gather for corporate worship, prayer, and the teaching of God’s Word. If you haven’t joined us, do so this Sunday! Or next… you can even start by watching online at But make it a point to move towards gathering in person, as you feel comfortable.

We also meet together in smaller groups of transformational communities to support, challenge and encourage one another to be Christ-centered. In our times together the Holy Spirit shapes us to be like Jesus and sends us to be Jesus in our community and the world. If you want more information about gathering in small communities, visit our Life Group page on our website.