The Church is not you, it is we
“Hey Paul…I really know you think we should be in First Baptist Philippi tomorrow morning, but we have a chariot race we just gotta see…”
Can you imagine how that conversation in the first century would have gone? Can you envision a recent or mature convert attempting to convince the apostle Paul, or Peter, or James that their busy work week, or child’s sporting event, or morning on the Mediterranean is more important than gathering with the bride of Jesus? It’s actually quite humorous if you picture it. Paul sadly shaking his head, a Gospel-centered philosophy of church participation flowing from his lips, while old Pete on the other hand grows livid and reaches for a sword to cut off your church-skipping ear.
In all seriousness, the cavalier attitude that many believers take toward church attendance today would have never been condoned or excused in the first century because this attitude did not exist in the first century. To belong to the church of Jesus Christ meant a whole-hearted commitment to the gathering of believers. History records this reality, the book of Acts (2:42, 46) confirming this while the epistle to the Hebrews commands it (Hebrews 10:25). Sadly, those days are long gone and in their place we now have confusion, convolution, and controversy surrounding church participation.
Now, just to be clear, I am not referring to those who miss a Sunday gathering for one of many completely legit reasons. Rather, I’m referring to the “commit-to-nothing, don’t-hold-me-accountable, I-can-justify-my-absence” mentality that has ushered in the consumeristic, comfortable Christianity of twenty-first century North America.
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. Scripture makes it extremely clear (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10) that each of us has 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 family 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.