Be the Church (by being in Church)
“Hey bro, we won’t be there Sunday ‘cause we…” I’ve heard this phrase roll off of lips with increased regularity as years have passed and the church has grown. Each time I am confronted with it I inwardly cringe a little. It’s not the reality of a friend missing the worship gathering that eats at me (after all there are very legitimate reasons for passing on church services on a particular Sunday); rather it is the realization that the seismic “commit-to-nothing, avoid the institution, and prioritize you” shift in our culture is undercutting Scripture while restructuring ideals. You would be hard pressed to find in first century Antioch a Christ follower who espoused the eternity altering truth of the Gospel and yet bypassed gathering with the saints for a day by the river, the observation of a chariot race, or an hour more of sleep. History records for us the absolute prioritization that Christians placed on gathering with their local church. The book of Acts (2:42, 46) confirms this while the epistle to the Hebrews commands it (Hebrews 10:25).
However, church attendance in our day is a confusing, convoluted, and now controversial subject. What is the big deal if we miss because we are tired or busy? What is the big deal if I skip church when it conflicts with a family celebration or sporting event? It’s not really communicating to my kids that athletics, leisure, or sleep is more important than the adoration of God. The excuses flow freely from good, religious folks who in theory espouse one ideal while practically embracing another.
For your consideration I’ve compiled a short list of reasons to encourage and challenge (not guilt) you to make corporate worship each Sunday an absolute priority for you and your family:
- We need it. I know, we like to think of ourselves as non-dependent but the reality is simple: you need the church. Your soul needs to be with other believers singing anthems of praise, hearing the word, confessions, or creeds publicly read, partaking of communion, praying, serving, and learning from the proclamation of Scripture. The idea of a Christian who does not prioritize corporate worship is foreign to the book of Acts. The practice of a Christian who does not prioritize corporate worship will result in apathy, hypocrisy, and eventual compromise. It always does, without fail.
- We are needed. I’m penning this blog at 4 AM (it’s about the only time I have to write anymore) because my 20-month old son has been up and down all night crying from what I think are nightmares (I should have never let him watch that ‘Bama game last Saturday). I am glad that I can pick him up, pat his back, rest his head on my shoulder, and simply be there to comfort him. Scripture makes it extremely clear (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10) that each of us have a spiritual gift given to us by God to be used for the common good. Peter declares plainly that believers meet together to use those gifts to strengthen one another. Every Sunday wounded, broken individuals meander through the doors of our church and you have a gift Divinely given to bind up that wound, instruct the wandering heart, challenge the cynical mind, or encourage the one who is struggling. That gift can not be administered if you are not there.
- It is your identity. Let’s be real, you can’t be the church if you are individualistic. The church is a body, a flock, a family. God calls you a member of that body. Therefore, when you shirk the importance of gathering with the saints you are in fact living in opposition to your spiritual identity. The church is not you, it is we. To be the church means to gather.
- God ordained it. The church is God’s idea. The church is Christ’s bride which He purchased with His own blood. That church universal is broken down into faith families all across the globe, all throughout time. I can say with absolute certainty that it is God’s design and desire that every child of His belong to a local family of believers and highly prioritize gathering with them weekly.
What Christians – born again, Bible believing, cliche clutching Christians – fail to understand is this: we have the freedom and pleasure of worshiping with our church family on a weekly basis. That is a freedom and a privilege that many Christians around the world do not enjoy. We should absolutely place Sunday worship as a very high priority. We ought to schedule our cultural or family celebrations around our weekly corporate worship of God, not the reverse.
So, my encouragement is this (to all believers but especially my friends at BLDG 28): have a grateful heart for whatever church body the Lord has graciously placed you in – and that goes for pastors such as myself as well. Value corporate worship. Be refreshed in corporate worship. Set an example for generations that will follow. Show up.