Four Words for a Searching Church: Three - Be Present
Hebrews 10:23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Probably the majority of messages preached on this passage focus on this one point from v.25. We all know there are legitimate times when people cannot be here do to travel, illness, work, or some other demand. The concern here is the person who doesn’t come because they “just don’t feel like it.”
You Have To Be There
We all have been in a conversation where someone starts telling a story that is supposed to be funny or enlightening or poignant, and when they get to the end, the people listening are unmoved. Most often, the person speaking will then say, “I guess you had to be there.”
Every time God's people meet to worship God, something happens. We may not know at the time what it was, but God's word does not return to Him void. It accomplishes its task (see Isaiah 55:10-11). But if you or I do not gather with God's people to worship Him, we will miss out on what He is doing.
Some people are concerned that they do not know what is going on in church. Two things we need to recognize. First, the most important thing going on in church should be happening during worship. The focus of believers when we have gathered together should be the worship of our God and if you are not there, you will not understand what God is doing in the local body. Second, how can we support the purpose God has for the local body if we are not meeting with that body? God has gifted you so that you might have a role in strengthening His body, growing His body, serving His body, or healing His body. But you cannot exercise your gift if you neglect to meet together.
It Takes Commitment
So, each one of us has to decide whether or not gathering for worship with a local body is a priority. Are we going to sleep in or come to church? Are we going to watch the football game or come to church? We have members who come here after working all night, or get up early after working a late shift. In some local bodies they risk their lives by meeting together.
Again, I know that there are times when you cannot meet with your local congregation. And I'm not the type of person that says everyone needs to be at every Bible class/meeting the church holds. I think there are blessings for those who come to those meetings that are missed by those who do not attend, but when we gather together for corporate worship, every member who is physically able should be here. For those who travel, do you make an effort to meet with some other local body of Christ for worship?
Of course, the reality is some people are here, but they are not here. Physically, they are in the worship service, but mentally they are a thousand miles away. This goes back to the second point about being attentive. Why do you attend the worship service? Have you come to see what so-and-so is wearing, or to hear if someone says something scandalous? Have you come to complain about the music style, or about how the sermon is too long or too short? Are you just warming a pew so you can check the "attended church this week" box?
Or have you come to worship the One who created you and redeemed you? Have you come out of love and gratitude for what Jesus has done for you? Have you come to focus on Him and to share His love with those around you. I hope it is one of these latter reasons, not the former.
Because the reality is if we don’t make the commitment to really be here, we will find that our habit is to not be here.
So, if we are to encourage one another, our third task it to be present.
PS - PAB, if you happen to read this, know it was in draft form ready to go before we talked, so I didn't write this specifically to the last part of our conversation. So if it speaks to your feelings, just know it wasn't me.