The Importance Of Attending Church Regularly…
Many Christians choose not to often attend church (i.e. larger gatherings of people to praise God and learn from God). Some believe their relationship with God is private–between them and God alone–while others have different reasons for staying away from weekly church services. Below are some thoughts to continue the conversation of this important topic, that our friendship with Jesus is personal but not private and is meant to be expressed with the larger family of God…
(please click on the Bible book/chapter/verses below to read the actual text of Scripture)
- Exodus 7:16: After 400 years as slaves in Egypt, God calls for His people to gather together to do good deeds for Him…no, that’s not what the text says! (as important as good deeds are, that is not what God called His people to do at that time) No, God called His people to gather together and worship Him in the desert, in the barrenness, in the harshness of their ever-presemt reality while they were still slaves, before their lives had gotten any better/easier. That right there should help us understand the importance of gathering together with other Christians on a regular basis to worship God together, especially during extraordinarily painful seasons of life.
- Psalm 22:22, 25; 35:18; 68:26; 111:1; 149:1–praising God in the assembly of believers was a constant theme in the Old Testament!!!
- Acts 1:14, 2:1, 44, 46: In the New Testament after Jesus died, came back to life and ascended to heaven, believers were meeting together consistently praying and praising God!!!
- Hebrews 10:19-25:
-“We, Us,” occurs 12 times in this short passage. God is clearly emphasizing not the individuality of Christians but our unity, our togetherness, our coming together.
-verse 19-21: only ONE person, once per year used to be able to come into the direct presence of God. Now, because of Jesus’ perfect life, death and return to life, WE believers can enter into the direct presence of God TOGETHER at any time! While God’s love/grace/forgiveness is free for us, it certainly wasn’t free for Him! Think about how much it cost Jesus to give us the privilege of meeting TOGETHER to know Him and praise Him!!!
-verse 22: this is what we do at church each Sunday! Come together in faith to be encouraged to accept Jesus’ forgiveness or to remind us that we have been forgiven through our past acceptance! We come together not just as a task to be checked off a list but with “sincere hearts” that are realizing more and more what Jesus has done for us!! This is church! This is what happens when we come together to worship God through song, to pray together, to hear God’s Word taught! Meeting together at church has emotional, spiritual and physical benefits! (heart, conscience, and bodies)
-verse 23: By attending church we are together professing/admitting/confessing/holding to the hope we have in Jesus alone!!!
-verse 24-25: when we meet together at church we don’t silently show up/then quickly leave (I used to arrive often at church before the Gospel reading and leave right after communion–I was AT church but I wasn’t BEING the church!!!). Rather, we look for ways to encourage each other toward love and good deeds in light of the fact that Jesus is returning soon (as we see The Day approaching)…we share with each other what God has been teaching us the past week, we listen to each other’s victories and defeats, we pray for each other, we commit to NOT giving up meeting together at church as many people apparently were doing! It’s the two-minute warning, yall–the clock is ticking until Jesus’ return, He wants more and more people to accept His free gift of forgiveness, and He is inviting US to encourage each other to keep passing out His invitations!!! THAT’s why we meet at church each week, and those are the things we miss out on when we sporadically attend…We miss out on the encouragement that God had for us through each other…
At most churches, NO ONE is taking attendance each Sunday to get you in trouble if you miss, you aren’t going to get zapped by lightening from God if you don’t attend church regularly!!! There is ALWAYS grace with Jesus!!! Please hear that!!! 🙂
BUT…I wonder how many of us, over the past 52 Sundays, made the choice to attend church regularly? From sick days to vacations to kids’ sports schedules to feeling tired to not liking the music to not liking the pastor, there are SO MANY reasons that we just don’t make it to church…and we miss out, others miss out, we simply cannot become who God made us to be and do what God made us to do if we attend church infrequently or never. Let’s ask God to help us be dedicated and committed—not legalistic but focused—on attending church regularly, not because we have to, but because we get to!!! Our relationship with Jesus is personal but it is not private…
In a family, while each member does need time to themselves in their own room/space, if they NEVER came out of their solitude to invest time in the group, in the larger family, the health of both the family AND the individual would suffer. The same is true with Jesus’ Church…
A Few More Thoughts…
While I cannot speak for other pastors, here are my personal goals for the worship services each week, my goals that I pray and hope are really God’s goals:
- Grow Closer To God As A Person-I’m not trying to entertain you…I simply can’t compete with people who are skilled in that!!!-I’m not primarily trying to improve your behavior (although as we get to know God more and more our behavior WILL improve!)…God wants our hearts before He wants our hands (though He does want BOTH!) (Psalm 119:10) Many people want to simply utilize the Bible as a way to have more successful lives, and so many churches simply focus on that (give the customers what they want!!!). The crazy thing is, you CAN put parts of the Bible into practice in your life and see some positive results…but doing so doesn’t mean that we have accepted Jesus’ offer to be adopted into His family (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 10:38-42 [Mary & Martha]). Jesus came not to make bad people good but to make dead people alive. He wants us to know Him and as we grow closer to Him as our friend and Father we will naturally begin to serve Him as our King.
-Throughout the Bible God reminds His people that it is a relationship with Him that He is inviting us to–He consistently tells people that He is with them:
- Jeremiah was discouraged at God’s mission for him; he believed he was too young, inexperienced, and unqualified to do what God was sending him to do.
God’s Response? “Dont be afraid of them-I am with you & will rescue you,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 1:8)
- Gideon gave many excuses to God regarding why he couldn’t do what God asked of him.
God’s response? “I will be with you” (Judges 6:16).
- Moses gave many excuses to God regarding why he couldn’t do what God asked of him.
God’s response? “I will help you & teach you” (Exodus 4:12).
- Jesus told a few dozen overwhelmed disciples to share Him with the ENTIRE WORLD.
His encouragement and promise? “I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20).
- In Psalm 23, why would David not fear even though he was being attacked by death on all sides?
God’s reason: “For You are with me…” (Psalm 23:4).
- What was the angel’s encouragement to the teenage/unmarried girl Mary right before he told her of the great mission/honor/responsibility that God was giving her to give birth to God’s only Son?
God’s message: “The LORD is with you!” (Luke 1:28).
If knowing God Personally and deeply is so important to God in the Bible, then it is to be just as important to us today…and one of the best (not the only!) ways to grow closer to God is to gather together with others to do so!
Here’s my second goal for church services each week:
- Dig into the Bible.
This is why I try to have as much of the Bible as possible in each sermon…there are PLENTY of speakers out there whose sermons/messages are primarily filled with their charisma and stories and anecdotes and so on and so forth…But with a lot of human words and only a little of God’s Word, such messages are like whipped cream–sweet in the mouth but empty in the stomach. While some speakers’ words can tickle our ears only God’s Word can transform our hearts. I don’t want you coming to church because of ME (or staying away because of me!)…I invite you to participate here each week to meet with HIM…
- I am trying to love/serve you through the church services each week…
-Jesus didn’t say the greatest thing is leadership…He said the greatest is love.
-Jesus didn’t say if you want to be great you need to entertain or lead people…He said His followers need to serve people…
-Jesus didn’t command Peter to lead/manage/direct His sheep, He commanded Peter to feed His sheep (and what is preparing spiritual and physical meals for people if not both loving and serving them at the same time?)
-And so that is what I try to do, day in and day out, whether I’m on this platform on Sunday morning or on my knees alone in this building during the week, whether I am trying to encourage you with a text message or listening as you share how your week is going, I am trying to love and serve you. To the extent that I screw up, that I make mistakes, that I fumble the ball, I am counting on 1 Peter 4:8–love covers over a multitude of sins. I am not great/the best at any one aspect of being a pastor–I am a very normal person in that regard. But I am trying to be great at loving and serving you, showing you with my words and actions that I genuinely care about you, that you are more than a tool to fulfill my goals, that you are more than a check/dollar sign, that you are more than a number on a weekly attendance sheet (we don’t take attendance, though! 🙂 ), that you are more than a warm body to fill volunteer slots…you are WAY more than all that. You are created by God in His image, He died for you…you are loved, imperfectly by me and other Christians, but hopefully to such an extent that you can see even more clearly through me how perfectly you are loved by Jesus…
…but pastors and other Christians cannot love each other nearly as well as we could if we rarely or never attend church.
I hope to see you at church services this Sunday!!!