The church is precious to God (see: Ephesians 3:10).
In fact, it is so important to him that he has given us some tremendous metaphors in the New Testament to describe it, "Christ's Building" and "Christ's Body"; but there is nothing more sacred or personal than being called "Christ's Bride."
Christ's Bride... stop on that a second.
If this is true, why do so many people run away from it? Why do so many people see the church as nothing more than a tedious man-made construct designed to get into your wallet? Some people see no value in attending the local body of believers; to them the church community serves no important purpose; and they actually believe they would be served much better if they went fishing or slept in on Sunday.
In John 20, on the first day of the week (Sunday) after Jesus rose from the grave, he appears to Mary and the first thing he does is he goes to church. He does this because he wants to give his church two tremendous things: His Peace (presence) and his Spirit (specifically to be witnesses to the world by offering the power to forgive). These two gifts are still given to the church today - - and for some unknown reason, the runaway bride finds very little value in receiving these things.
I think one of the reasons for devaluing the church community is because people don't think they need the church to actually receive these gifts. In some ways they are right, but in other ways they are dead wrong. Do you really think Jesus wants you to love him while you forget or could care a less about others? Is the Spirit of Christ given to be experienced solely on a personal level? Many Americans and hermits think so, but that is utterly not the case.
God loves all people, and he wishes for all his people to know his forgiveness; and they primarily experience this forgiveness by forgiving each other, and being forgiven by each other.
Here are my personal thoughts about the importance of church:
(1) He wants his people, as community, to be unified, to be one (John 17:20-23). Oneness in this context does not mean to be alone. The concept of a "desperado" is not found in the New Testament.
(2) God intends for his forgiveness to be dispersed and extended in the context of his community (James 5:15-16). In other words, forgiveness is next to impossible to receive alone because it is a relational gift. Think of a real marriage, how can you be forgiven to your spouse when you are separated or divorced? This idea is the epitome an oxymoron!
(3) People who run away from church are leaving the spiritual protection of the body (1 Corinthians 5:4-5).
(4) The longer people stay away from Christ's local body, the more they become confirmed in their sin and grow hardened to his grace (1 John 2:19-20). In other words, runaway brides either have not the Spirit of God in them (2 Timothy 3:10) or they are foolishly thinking they can be a faithful Christian without belonging to a local church...I say this is rubbish! (Ephesians 2:19-22).
(5) God gives us a body in the form of other believers to make us more like him (Galatians 6:1-4), and often this oneness hurts - - but it is for our good (2 Corinthians 7:8-13)!
So, you think the church is not that important? I wonder, who has been telling you that? Take a look at 1 Timothy 4:1: "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will ABANDON (runaway) the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." Hmmm...kinda scary.
One final thing, I know what some of you are thinking, "Yeah, you are wanting people to go to church because you are a pastor and people pay your salary. The less people who come to church the less you make. You can't fool me - - you are a money hungry fool!" Maybe you're right....I went into the ministry to get rich.