Just as the Holy Spirit calls and enlightens us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, and sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith, so “in the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith…” (SC, The Third Article: Sanctification). There is only one Church, though we typically speak of it in two ways: the invisible and visible church. The Church “is principally an association of faith and the Holy Spirit in the hearts of persons [invisible church]. It nevertheless has its external marks [visible church] so that it can be recognised, namely, the pure teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments in harmony with the Gospel of Christ” (Ap VII & VIII, 5).
Invisibly, the Church is wherever the Holy Spirit rests in the heart of believers; visibly, the Church is wherever God’s people physically gather to hear the Gospel, receive His gifts in the Sacraments, and thus be sanctified and kept in the one true faith through His Word and Sacraments. Hence why we confess “the communion of saints” in this article. Even when we go to church and participate in worship at our local congregation, we are doing so as one Body of Christ—one Church—with all Christians everywhere, just as St. Paul says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 1:12-13). Or as he says more succinctly in Ephesians 4:5, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
Thus, why do we go to church? It is not a social club, so get rid of that punch card mentality. Rather, God gathers us so that He might enlighten us with His gifts and to sanctify and keep us in the one true faith, which, as it has been said already, is His Word and Sacraments. This cannot be done as you lounge on your couch at home. Away with such laziness! And although it may become necessary at times, church on your screen is inadequate, for you are not with the body of saints. Digital church is designed to be the temporary exclusion for cases of sickness and other physical incapabilities (and pandemic), not the alternative. The members of the body are not meant to be cut off, lest they wither and die (which is why the pastor and other members visit shut-ins). No one cuts off their perfectly good arm; therefore, why sever yourself from the Body of Christ? Rather, let us evermore seek that rest and easy yoke in Christ (Matthew 11:28-30) by going where His Spirit calls and gathers His people to receive His good gifts: our local congregation.