I saw you there yesterday. You were the one who came in about ten minutes before services started, shook a few hands, said “Hi” to the older lady at the back, then sat in your pew five rows from the front. You sang the songs exactly like the song leader wanted, with all your spirit, understanding the words and hitting the notes perfectly. You took the Lord’s Supper and reflected on Christ’s death, then when the time came for the sermon, you took out your Bible and followed along diligently, sometimes even making notes. After the invitation song and closing prayer, you got up, shook some more hands and grabbed some food on the way home. Great sunday! The question is, did you do everything you were supposed to?
The modern definition of church services is completely ME centered. It has everything to do with my own wants, and my own needs, which is something the religious world has played upon perfectly, meeting these demands with fellowship halls and entertainment-oriented worship (in response to this, compare James 1:20). While we all should aspire to gain knowledge for ourselves and grow every time we come together, the purpose for us as spelled out in Hebrews 10:24-25, has less to do with self-edification, and more to do with what we can give our fellow man. Consider the words in their entirety:
“…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.”
The “habit of some” was to completely blow off the worship services entirely, choosing rather to be somewhere (anywhere) else than with their brothers and sisters. It represented a condescending attitude towards the Church that something more important was occupying their time. Ironically, according to the preceding verses talking about “drawing near to God” and “having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience,” there really couldn’t be anything more pressing in their lives. Their whole purpose in life was to be more like Him, and make sure everyone else that made that same commitment did as well. With that said, now verses 24-25 come into play, and there’s three things that the Hebrew writer commands to do at those times you come together:
- Consider: This takes conscious thought on the part of one person as to what the other person needs. If you’re out buying your five-year-old niece a birthday gift, what you’re not going to give her is something that’s made for a 12-year-old boy, like say, a transformer (true story by the way). You’re going to consider what she wants and needs, and then give her something that caters to that. Same thing with worship. When you see someone else in the worship services, consider in your mind what you can do to encourage or strengthen that person and then do it. This is the mindset that David had in Psalm 5:1, when he spoke out for God to “consider [his] groaning.” What did he not want from God? A carbon-copy cutout of the Answered Prayer guide, but a special, unique response to his suffering. Same thing with sister Debbie. Consider her needs, her situation, and how you can respond as her brother/sister.
- Stimulate one another: We get bogged down after a while; 75+ years of service to God is tiring. Moses wrote in Psalm 90:10: “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years. Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away.” 70-80 years is a long time to resist temptation, study the Bible, teach other people, lead your family, be an example, put up with ridicule, and the eight billion other things that go along with being a Christian. People get tired, and that mid-week or beginning-week service should be the antidote to that. We should look forward to getting to spend time with our fellow Christians, rather than loathe it and think of it as an obligation (1 John 5:2). Consider then, in your time together, how you can encourage each other and pick each other up unto love and good works (2 Corinthians 7:13), especially as we see the end drawing nearer (Heb. 2:1-4).
- Unto love and good works: Any knucklehead can get up in a pulpit and tell people a bunch of things to get them fired up for God; it takes a genuine Christian to encourage another Christian to get on the right track. It involves consideration (there’s that word again!), compassion, love, and more often than not, tears (2 Cor. 7:8-9). But in reality, we’re the only ones that can. We can’t count on a random person off the street or a coworker to encourage us to “stay away from the alcohol” or “not sleep with that person.” A Christian will, and as Christians, we need to lean on each other to follow that path that hardly any of the rest of the world walks (Matt. 7:13-14). Consider how to stimulate each other to do those things that are harder than we think they are, but know are necessary, and then you will be following the guidelines for true fellowship in worship.