“Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some…” – Hebrews 10:25
The church of Acts apparently came together daily (Acts 2:46). Two millennia later, we’ve come quite a distance.
I personally believe the book of Acts is more of a miracle beginning than a required model for ministry. Partly, because I’ve yet to see a church, anywhere on the globe, who’s completely nailed every element of Acts 2. Maybe, it’s out there… Daily bread sharing, all things in common, selling of all property, and meeting seven days per week, but it seems these are principles regarding the heart of a New Testament Church as opposed to commanded practices for the church, and that position seems to vet itself out routinely in the remaining epistles.
But, that doesn’t change how far we’ve traveled.
The author of Hebrews commanded the Jewish believers not to forsake their assembly and even hinted at a few faces in the congregation who had been staying home for some Sunday football when they should have been at church. As the letter was read aloud, surely there were a few smirks, glances around the room, and an uncomfortable clearing of the throat.
There isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t greet people at church. You may not think you matter but you matter deeply. We pray for you. I look for you each Sunday. I usually find an entrance or an exit and try to give quite a few hugs. And, there isn’t a week that goes by where my heart doesn’t drop when I notice certain men, women, or families didn’t set their electronic alarm, shower in their warm home, put on their nice clothes, and drive their car down the ten minute Orange County highway to attend church. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Most Pastor’s feel this way. Your Pastor feels this way. You may think he’s busy or doesn’t notice, but I promise he does. They’ve committed their whole life to serving you!
For fifteen years, in every church I’ve attended or served in, I’ve heard excuses as to why people miss church, “They had to work” and even more often, “Someone in the house got sick”. Certainly these sentiments are true but after many years of ministry I’m now beginning to ask, “Are they sufficient?”
Since when did the American Christian determine that he or she would align themselves with an American culture which, only in the past two decades, has pushed employment and industry onto a day that was historically kept sacred for worship assembly? Props to Chick-Fil-A for holding down the fort! And, when did we as Pastor’s begin accepting the excuse instead of urging our people to request Sunday “off” for sacred worship while exhorting congregants to refuse work on Sunday, trusting God with the consequence as it relates to their profession? Certainly, the God who “owns a cattle on a thousand hills” and who commands we “not worry” or “store up treasures where moth and rust destroy” is capable of protecting the employment of his chosen.
And, when did churches begin agreeing with the American wellness culture, that itself had begun agreeing with the education system, postulating that illness, “Is a good reason not to attend an event, regardless of how good it may be for my mind or soul.” Partly, why we’re decades behind the educational veracity of other nations. When did we from the pulpit stop urging the sick and hurting come regardless of ailment? Stop urging they find rest in the church as a hospital? Stop urging they be fed and prayed over for, “Man does not live on bread alone?”
We have traveled a far distance from the church of our forefathers.
When I sit in village churches of Ecuador or in landfill churches of Manila, it is often difficult to hear the Pastor speak, due to the dull drone of constant wheezing and coughs from congregants. I urge any American Christian to simply take one mission trip to a church in the third world, set your iphone to record audio, and see if you aren’t likewise distracted. Ministering in the fumes of a landfill, one Pastor friend of mine chose lung cancer over leaving his ministry!
American Christian, the church is the bride of Christ and Sunday YOUR outward expression of that relationship with the brothers and sisters or YOUR eternal family. Do not forsake the assembly! Church is not something you go to, it’s a Person you are part of. Loving Jesus and His body is an all or nothing proposition. If you love him, you love him always. Love has no excuses. Love takes no vacations. Love sacrifices. Love prioritizes.
After a post like this, there are three possible responses.
First, you could ignore me and this post. I understand. Either way, I love you.
Second, you could get upset and comment in all caps, “Stop judging me you pharisee” and then you could blame your attendance inconsistencies on my boring sermons or the sermons of a church you attend. But, to that I would ask, “Would you prefer the opposite from me or your Pastor?” Would you prefer that we be apathetic towards you and your participation in the kingdom of heaven? That we ignore you? That we not be committed to showing you the truth, even at the cost of your ire?
Thirdly, you could realize that Christ chose you. And, that is reason enough to choose Him back every Sunday. And, you could immediately tweet or email your local church to get involved, email your boss letting him know God is a priority and you won’t work Sundays, schedule your vacations around church, go to church with a runny nose, put “God’s house” on your iphone calendar, commit to encouraging one new person each Sunday, pray for your church leaders as you walk in the building, and sit in the front row with hands raised realizing you don’t just go to church but that YOU ARE THE CHURCH.
We’ve traveled a far distance from the passions and truth of the early church.
But, we’re on our way back.