The church was always a part of my life. For the most part, I enjoyed attending even though there were times when I struggled to get there for various reasons. God gave me a love for the church and no matter how I felt I knew it was important for me to be there. Today, as a husband and father nothing has changed. Attending a place of worship has always been an intricate part of our family’s life and continues to be an essential part of our fellowship together.
So it seems awfully strange to me when believers would just stay home for no apparent reason. Some will make the commitment to morning worship but not much is said about Sunday evening. In some cases, especially in the United States, those who profess faith in Christ do not always see the importance of attending corporate worship at all. Some have neglected it to the point of spiritual apathy. Notice I make the effort to say “corporate worship” not “online” observation of corporate worship, but participation through physical attendance.
When someone who has made a verbal commitment to participate in the fellowship does not show up, that robs the body of an opportunity to function fully (cf. 1 Cor. 12). Its like the arm staying in bed while the rest of the body goes to work. Some vital functions will be compromised, especially when they are used to having the arm or expect the arm to come along. This is a growing problem in our fellowships today. The importance of the community being a functional body is falling short of its biblical model and mandate.
I want to remind you that in subsequent generations, statistics reveal that attending worship is becoming a matter of choice. This in my estimate has to do several things, one of which is previous generations of parents who neglected to attend worship, especially Sunday mornings and evenings. That is not the only reason, but from general observation, things tend to degenerate as time goes on, and the value of spiritual discipline by way of church attendance is not exempt from our fallenness. So we must remember that how we respond to spiritual things now in many ways impacts future values. We are not agents of change but our attitude and actions does have an effect on future followers of Christ. We are in many ways influential by our actions.
Another reason why consistent attendance is important is we are indicating by our actions where our treasures are. Staying home on Sunday mornings or evenings to get ready for the week or watch our favorite show or sporting event is saying that our treasure is our personal enjoyment, our body, or the job. But why stay home when God will speak that day and evening? Someone would rather not hear what God has to say through His human instrument? Whenever His word is being spoken through the means He has established to instruct us, is there anything better to do than to hear what God will say through His word?
Although this is on a side note, reducing worship to a mere option or choice is refusal to understand what you did when you agreed to abide by the governing authority of the church you are attending. If they met every day prior to your membership, you signed on to that.
If someone seeks to attend worship once a month, find a place that meets once a month. But if you said “I will” to everything the pastor presented to you during membership, why will you renege on your commitment? When you agreed during the membership process, you by your actions verify if you meant it or not. Yes God is watching, but so is the little one sitting in the pews; he or she will find that your “yes” was more like a “maybe” when you show up according to your feelometer (how you feel).
Now I must say this is not a hammer for pastors to drop so that every time someone misses a service we are on the prowl. This is for each believer to examine his or her priorities. Why am I not in service? When did attending worship become a matter of choice instead of an act of love and obedience to the Lord?
So how can we apply God’s word to this situation? One of the more insightful passages concerning this is in Hebrews 10:25, but this command is within a context that we must examine.
The writer is appealing to those who are straddling the fence to trust in the Messiah. There is no time for excuses or waffling. Either Jesus is more excellent than the angels, Moses, and the Law, making Him God, or He is not. Isn’t it interesting that the call to attend worship is a part of his overall appeal? While the context is a stern rebuke and admonition to those who know the truth intellectually but do not respond in obedience, it is striking that the assembly of the church is a part of his appeal to them as a means to strengthen them.
Based on that, we can say, one good sign of someone who gets it, or understands what has taken place based on what Christ has accomplished, is evident in faithful attendance of worship. The person who comes to sing, give, and hear God’s word, sees the necessity of this and realizes that assembling with fellow believers is not only essential, it is an expression of their new identity in Christ. They understand the implications of their new life in Christ and one of the lifelines of maintaining fellowship with the Lord is with His people. As they anticipate the coming of the Lord, they do so by making every effort to be with the same group of people who are waiting and longing for the same thing––the return of the Messiah.
In verses 19-21 of Hebrews chapter 10, believers have been blessed to be able to enter the “holy place by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way.” We are a part of an amazing work of grace and have opportunity to continually worship God through Jesus Christ. We are not on the outside looking in: we are a part of the family of God. We have been adopted and received by God through Jesus Christ. We long to be with Him and eagerly await His return.
Not only that, we have a great high priest. In fact, Sunday is not good enough to give Him thanks; we are able to do this continually throughout the week (Heb. 13:15). But there is something special when we gather: we are able to stimulate one another, to encourage one another, to edify one another; to remind each other of this treasure of inestimable worth (Heb. 10:24; cf. Col. 3:9-16; Eph. 4:32; 5:21; 1 Thess. 4:18); we hear the word of God coming to us in a special way through the preaching of the truth.
This is done when we gather together. How many times has someone encouraged me when I attended worship? It is too numerous to count but I can only reflect and consider: there was not a Sunday morning or evening when this did not happen. But if I decided to go surfing, that would not have taken place. Time after time, I was strengthened by the message and by the fellowship when I, in obedience to the word of God and the local church, came faithfully.
But is this not in light of what Christ has accomplished? What a marvelous work of grace that saved us and called us into His family. That is what happened to the saints in Acts. They had such deep love for the Lord they were compelled to meet as often as possible. They did not loose their “sense of awe” with what the Lord had accomplished (Acts. 2:43). This sense of awe motivates us for fellowship; a sense of awe for what God has done through Jesus Christ. Do you have this sense of awe?
Just peruse through the book of Acts and you will see this consistently. And although I realize Acts records the history of the early church and not necessarily doctrine, yet there were distinctive patterns in the early church that characterized it, and faithful attendance to hear God’s word and being transformed by it was one of the marks of true conversion (Acts 2:42-43).
So beloved, put the surfboard away; reschedule that date with the wife for another time; let the air out of the football, and make fellowship a priority on the first day of the week––attending all the services. The body of Christ is strengthened when we are all on board. And as a fellowship of believers we are letting others know we are still in awe of Christ and what He has done, and look forward for His return. Maranatha!