With so much emphasis placed on our own personal attendance to services and Bible classes, you would think that there would be more verses or even entire books written on the subject. In fact, there is only one, found in Hebrews 10:25: “…Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” This verse is hammered home with so much regularity that in some local churches it may even trump the other commands found in the Bible, such as “love one another,” “repent of your sins,” and “pray without ceasing.” And unfortunately in the denominational world, there is absolutely no mistaking where the focus is, not on living a holy and just life before God, but on showing up as often as possible. Yea verily, in the carnal world, attendance is king.
Not that there’s anything wrong with attendance; that was the point of the hebrew writer saying this, after all. It was evidently the “habit of some” to skip the gathering of the saints altogether, choosing rather to spend time in their own pursuits than meeting with fellow Christians. Maybe it was work, maybe it was hobbies, maybe it was their own laziness, but whatever it was, the end result is the same: they were not meeting with other Christians.
The reason for this gathering is very well laid out in the verse immediately preceding it, stating that one of the reasons we gather together is to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” The implication of that verse is that if you don’t see each other, how will you know what, why, and how to accomplish that! Without interaction, there is no stimulation! But it’s not just exhortation for exhortation’s sake – the end of verse 25 says this should become an increasing intensity “as you see the day drawing near.” What the day actually is may be up for debate, whether spoken in a temporal sense with the days of persecution, or in an eternal sense pertaining to judgment day, but the message is clear: there will come a time when your faith is tempted, and you must be ready for it.
That is the reason for our assemblies, not just so we can listen to the sermon, sing some songs, say a prayer and head to lunch, but to actively consider how to help each other become better Christians. With that being said – here’s the kicker – some of us may be guilty of forsaking the assembly…while inside the assembly! If the assembly is designed in part for us to encourage and exhort others in their walk with Christ, the question then must be asked: am I encouraging and exhorting other people in their walk with Christ? Or am I just a participant, blindly following the lead of others in hopes that I’ll achieve holiness by osmosis?
The only way that we’re going to “consider how to stir one another up to love and good works,” is by having deep conversations with people. Human beings are pros at the casual walk-through, saying hello and smiling as if the world is perfect, when inside they’re being destroyed bit by bit. The only way that we will know enough about our brothers and sisters to help them is by taking a second, looking them in the eye, and sincerely and honestly asking them specific questions about their life. That’s our responsibility, and that’s our privilege as brothers and sisters in the Lord.
David wrote in Psalm 122:1 that he was “glad” when they said to him, “let us go to the house of the Lord.” Too often in my own life, and I fear others, that “glad” of David’s wholehearted attendance turns into my “mad” of another obligation on my time. Another service, another singing, another prayer gathering, another thing on my to-do list. But the excitement that David felt in his invitation to worship God was wrapped up in the reverence and thankfulness that he had for God, and sometimes we have to honestly ask ourselves the same question. Am I excited to worship God because of the holiness that He deserves, and His condescension of a relationship with me (Ps. 144:3)? And do I, in turn, reciprocate that love and devotion to others who should be walking a similar path as me?
“Forsaking the assembly” is not just an “x” on the attendance roster at our local congregation, and it’s more than just the difference of one less number on the placard at the back of the building. It is a failure of the individual to take part in the worship towards His God, and a lack of concern for your fellow brethren who are struggling towards the same goal you are. I need you, your fellow brothers and sisters need you, to help us where we fall down. After all, if you don’t show concern for my soul, who else on earth will?Last modified: February 10, 2019