No, you don’t have to be at every service. Next.
Chances are, there a few people that read that line, agreed with it, and simply signed off to go about the rest of their day. If we can get those people back though (imagine me yanking on a gigantic rope), they’ll see that there’s more to it than just a simple yes or no answer.
But to put it very simply, no, you don’t have to be at every service. How do I know that? Because of all the things mentioned as appearing in Heaven throughout Scripture, a massive attendance chart isn’t one of them. There won’t be anyone standing there saying, “Ok Steve, looks like you had 92% percent attendance at Sunday worship, good job. 73% attendance at Bible class, very nice. Ooooooh, wait, hold up. Looks like you averaged a pretty sad 29% on Wednesday night overall. That’s just too low. Sorry!”
*Enter trap door whooshing sound and screams of despair*
Not gonna happen. So, if that’s what you’re looking for as an answer to this question, then I guess you’re set.
In fact, it may surprise some people to learn that out of the 31,102 verses that are in the Bible, only two happen to deal with attendance, and, conveniently enough, they’re located right next to each other! Here they are:
“…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 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.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Now, are there some verses in Psalms that talk about the joy of attending? Yep (Psalm 150). Are there verses that talk about the frequency of attending? Sure (Acts 2:46). But as far as I know, there is only one two-verse section that discusses the necessity of attending worship, and that’s in those two verses mentioned above.
As anyone who has read Hebrews before will tell you, however, there’s a lot more going on than what meets the eye.
At it’s most basic, the book of Hebrews is about Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Law. He’s God in the flesh (ch. 2), our Rest-Giver (ch. 4), our Great Hope (ch. 6), and our Great High Priest (ch. 7-9). And so on.
In Hebrews 10, however, a noticeable shift happens around verse 19. Instead of discussing deep theological truths that connect Old Testament types with New Testament antitypes (https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/larkin/dt/28.cfm), the writer starts talking about what to do with all this new information. This is where the famous “lettuce” passages come in (“let us” do this, “let us” do that, etc – I’m so funny).
One of the things he implores us to do with this understanding is to consider how we can help each other; specifically, how to “stimulate” one another to love and good deeds. Mixed in on the back end is the admonition to “not forsake the assembly” as is the habit of some.
What Does Forsake Mean?
A lot of people have put forth various arguments as to what exactly the writer means by “forsaking the Assembly.” Is it an intentional skip; if so, what about for a job that requires shift-work (such as first responders and oil riggers). Or is it just anyone who skips for any reason whatsoever, including health reasons? I’ve heard the latter first-hand. He argued that even if you had the flu, you should still sit there, just in the back where you don’t cough on anyone.
Yea, that’s not what he’s talking about.
Forsaking the assembly is best understood in a Biblical context. For instance, Paul wrote that they were “persecuted, but not forsaken” in 2 Corinthians 4:9. Demas “forsook” Paul in 2 Timothy 4:10, 16, and God promised that He would never “forsake” us (Hebrews 13:5).
Those words may mean slightly different things given the context, but the gist is the same: it’s a willful abandonment of the assembly. I’m making the conscious choice to not be somewhere when I have every ability to be there. Missing a service because you’re working a shift as an ambulance driver or have strep throat is not “forsaking the assembly,” no matter what any self-righteous person would say otherwise. It’s a conscious decision to not assemble with the saints because you simply don’t want to. These decisions start as conscious choices and usually drift into habits, which is what the Hebrew writer is imploring us not to let happen.
Apparently, some in the audience had become accustomed to skipping gatherings to pursue other activities. This is what the Hebrew writer is referring to when he says to not forsake the assembly “as is the habit of some.” Do you know anyone like that? Are you (or I) like that?
Here’s another kicker: I would argue that you can just as easily forsake the assembly…while you’re in the assembly. In today’s digital age, it’s easier than ever to swipe out of your Bible app and swipe into Facebook without even your neighbor noticing. You’re physically in the audience, but you’re not really there.
What is the Day?
Further arguments exist as to what exactly the “day” in Hebrews 10:24-25 mean. The day of judgment or day of persecution?
The writer of Hebrews is addressing people who are persecuted (Hebrews 10:32-33; Acts 8:1). In that situation, you will want the relationships you’ve formed with fellow Christians to be tighter than ever, since just about everyone else in the world may very well turn on you. Closeness gives us strength, and strength is what we need in times of persecution (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
But it can also mean, in a larger context, the day of Judgment. All of us have an appointment to meet God face to face (2 Corinthians 5:10), and that is a day we will definitely want to prepare for. What better time than to have our fellow Christians “stir us up unto love and good works?” (Hebrews 10:25).
Honestly, if you’re at the point where you’re asking the question “Do I have to be at every service?” then you’re probably drifting farther away from God than you think. Worshipping with the saints should be one of the greatest blessings we have, not something to be tossed aside whenever we feel like it.
So no, you don’t have to be at every service, but doing so only hurts your own soul and the souls of those who depend on your presence for strength. Not to mention showing a lack of concern for the Son who gave His life so that you could live.
The least we could do is repay Him with our presence and our hearts.Last modified: March 18, 2019