*of course there are valid reasons why someone cannot go to church on any given Sunday (illness, out-of-town, work, etc.) that is not what is being addressed in this article. The intent of this article list is to deal with the avoidable excuses for not being faithful to attend your local church.
- You need to be around other Christians. “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, no forsaking the assembly of ourselves together as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) You and I need regular exhortation by other Christians in order to be stirred up to love and do good works. This is done, according to God, by the assembling of ourselves together. Assembling is the verb form of the word “synagogue.” Though it can mean many things, it never means anything less than actual, corporate gathering. In other words, this cannot mean “get together with a few friends for a fun time.” Based on the word chosen, it must mean the official gathering of God’s people. When you miss a worship service of your church, you are hurting your own spiritual health.
- Other Christians need you to be around them. This same passage above indicates that the reverse is true. Not only do you need to be stirred up to love and good works, but you need to stir up others. Sadly, some will choose not to go to church this Sunday because they will think things like, “I don’t get anything out of the preaching,” “I don’t have time,” “I won’t be missed,” “It’s not like I have any responsibilities this week.” And these excuses and more are completely untrue. A Christian’s presence in an assembly, her smile, his handshake, his voice in song, his prayer of heart, her kindness, her example, etc. all are needed with or without public, observable ministry. When you miss a worship service of your church, you are hurting more people than yourself.
- You need Bible teaching from God-appointed Pastors. Living with technology at our beck and call, it can become tempting to become “virtual Christians.” We get our teaching from great teachers on the internet and radio and then find an excuse not to attend church. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” Clearly, God’s Word implies that knowing personally those who are teaching you God’s Word so that you can observe them, imitate them, and grow with them is necessary for our advance. A virtual world, virtual pastors, and virtual church services cannot give you that. The author continues in verse 17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” It is difficult for a spiritual pastor to watch over the souls of God’s people entrusted to his spiritual care if he is always busy tracking them down. It is said that Charles Spurgeon prayed through the members of the church by name while he was preaching. Most do not have the ability for such things, but as a pastor, I do pray for the people more easily and urgently when I see their faces every week (which I learn to read quite well) rather than trying to remember them off of a black and white list of names.
- You need both to sing and hear singing. “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19). Notice that the text says, that we are to be addressing (speaking) to one another with singing. This means that it is not the same thing to listen to your iPod or Christian radio. We need to participate both in hearing and in singing loud praise and thanksgiving to our great Savior. We need to be standing in the midst of singing people listening as the voices of people we know turn our hearts upward to Christ. This is especially true when we hear the voices of those who we know are struggling and in pain singing loudly. We also need to be those contributing to turning other’s hearts to the Christ by singing with unity about the greatness of our God. There just is no way to obey this command when you are sitting at home this Sunday, alone.
- You need to remember that Christ’s church is a holy, healing community in a new covenant of grace. When you hear people say, “The people are the church, not the building.” This is true, but it is “the people,” not the “person” that is the church. Christ’s church is always plural. I am not the church, “we” are the church of the living God. There are many ways that we can remember that the church is a community, not a single entity. But one of the greatest ways to remember this is the regular observance of the ordinance called Communion. It goes by many names, but I am talking about the command Christ gave to his community of disciples before he died that they should “Do this in remembrance of him.” The church was commanded together to partake of the wine which symbolized the new covenant of grace and promise for the church. The church was commanded together to eat the unleavened bread which symbolized the body of Christ and the access that the community of faith has unto God through Jesus Christ. Each time your church has a communion service, they are publicly identifying not only with Jesus gospel in an open dramatic fashion, but also identifying with one another as fellow-soldiers in the fight of faith. When you do communion, pause and look around, these are the people who are identifying with Christ’s covenant of mercy. These are the people who are for you and with you. And then be encouraged by them.
Like all families, gathering together for games, activities, conversations, coffee and dessert is important. But perhaps the most important gathering in families is the meal times. History has proved that cultures where family is revered and preserved are cultures where families fellowship together around meals. I know in our family, our family dinners is one of the most strengthening and bonding experiences. We turn off our phones, no TV, no computer, no books, or music just the six of us gathered around eating the same food, sharing ideas, laughing, praying, reading the Bible, talking about our day. Spiritually, as the family of God, we need to come together to eat the same spiritual food, pray, sing, rejoice, weep, confess, repent and otherwise gather as God’s assembly. When we miss these spiritual times of gathering, we are weakened individually and the whole assembly is weakened. You see, your attendance at church is not about what you do on Sunday, it is about what you are as a saint. Go to your church assembly this Sunday and contribute even if you feel your contribution is small, I assure you…it is not, when you attend church this week, you are doing the work of God.