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Many New Testament passages describe local congregations of God's people conducting regular meetings to worship God and study His word (Acts 20:7; 11:26; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; chap. 14; Hebrews 10:25). These meetings are intended to provide blessings and opportunities that benefit those who attend.
Occasional emergencies may make it necessary for us to miss, but we should diligently try to avoid such hindrances so we can be present, if at all possible.
Please consider these reasons why you need to attend all meetings of the local church:
John 4:23,24 - God seeks worshipers to worship Him in spirit and in truth. He has commanded five activities by which we ought to praise Him: prayer, singing, Bible study, the Lord's Supper, and giving (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 11:26; 1 Corinthians 14:15; 16:2; 11:17-34; Ephesians 5:19).
Revelation 19:5 - All God's servants ought to praise and worship Him. God intended, not just for some of His people to worship Him, but all of them. (Romans 15:9-11)
The Bible clearly teaches that Christians should attend church meetings to accomplish these purposes (Acts 11:26; 20:7; Hebrews 10:23-25; 1 Corinthians 14:1-40; 11:17-34). Some of these activities (prayer, singing, and Bible study) should also be done at home (Acts 17:11; 16:25; James 5:13; Deuteronomy 6:6-9; Psalm 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). But the scriptures previously listed show that church meetings are also essential.
Private worship is not enough, and public worship is not enough. Both are required.
We should attend worship assemblies, not only because God wants us to, but also because we want to.
Matthew 22:37,38 - The greatest command is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. We should love God above all because He sent His only begotten Son to die to save us from eternal torment and offer us eternal life (Romans 5:6-8; 1 John 4:8-10,19; John 3:16).
Some people think, "I don't have to come every time." But why would someone who loves God want to do something else instead? If your child or loved one were sick or hurt, would you say, "You can't prove I have to help them"? If you love them, don't you want to help them? So, when you love God, you will want to worship Him.
Romans 1:21 - Failure to glorify God is ingratitude, and ingratitude is the first step into apostasy. A person who could attend, but simply chooses not to do so, is simply showing a lack of love and gratitude for what God has done. It is a sign of serious spiritual disease, (2 Timothy 3:2).
Hebrews 13:15 - When people truly appreciate God's love, they want to express their thankfulness in praise and worship. (See also Colossians 4:2; Psalm 100:4; Ephesians 1:5,6).
1 Peter 2:9 - God has chosen us to be His special people that we might proclaim His praises. Giving honor and glory to God is the purpose of our salvation!
Psalms 1:2; 119:97-99; 122:1 (Joshua 1:8) - Righteous men desire to meditate on God's law because they delight in it and love it. They honestly say, "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord.'" This is the attitude we will all have when we truly learn to love and appreciate God and His word. Is this your attitude?
Acceptable worship must come from a proper attitude. People who have this attitude will not try to avoid worship; they will want to come at every opportunity the church provides.
Matthew 5:6 - Faithful disciples will hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Hebrews 3:12,13 - To avoid falling away, we must encourage one another. Note that we need this regularly, not just one hour per week. Some of this can be done outside church meetings, but participating in church meetings is fundamental. When members neglect the assemblies, they almost invariably also neglect to exhort others outside church activities, and they usually also have other serious spiritual problems.
Hebrews 5:12 - Christians should become teachers of God's word. If we are not now able to teach, we should be developing the ability. This is expected of all members, young or old, babes in Christ or mature in the faith.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 - We should comfort and edify (build up) one another.
(See also 2 Timothy 2:2, 24-26; Acts 8:4; 17:11; Galatians 6:1; 1 Peter 2:2; Hosea 4:6.)
When the church provides these opportunities, all the members ought to attend and participate in the teaching and learning.
1 Timothy 3:15 - The church is pillar and ground of the truth.
1 Corinthians 14:19,26,31,40 - The church conducts assemblies to teach and edify the members.
Ephesians 4:15, 16 - Each member must work to build up the body. This is true of all members and all church meetings. If all the members were as active as you are, how effectively would the church be built up?
Hebrews 10:23-25 - In order to hold fast our hope and not fall away, we must exhort and provoke one another to love and good works (cf. 3:12,13). To fulfill this duty, we should attend regularly when the church meets.
Hebrews 13:17 - Elders watch on behalf of members' souls, guiding the flock so members are fed (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-3). Much of this instruction is done in meetings. Members are responsible to obey and submit to the elders. We must cooperate with their teaching efforts, which requires being present when the teaching is done.
The command to partake of the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week authorizes the church to decide a time and place to meet. When the church has set a time and place, all members ought to come so they can obey the command to partake.
In the same way, the church is authorized to provide meetings in which members can teach and exhort one another. Since members need regular and frequent teaching, it follows that churches are authorized to provide as many meetings as needed to accomplish the necessary teaching, including mid-week meetings, gospel meetings, etc. All the members then should come and be involved whenever the church meets.
Attendance and Bible study are to faithful discipleship what the ABC's are to reading. You can know the ABC's without learning how to read, but you can never read without knowing the ABC's. In the same way, disciples may attend church meetings and yet be otherwise unfaithful, but none will ever be truly faithful if they are negligent in attendance.
1 Timothy 4:12 - Be examples to believers in word, manner of life, love, faith, and purity. You should attend the assemblies for your own benefit, but consider also the effect on others if you do or do not attend. Surely new members and weak members need all the teaching they can get. But such people often decide how often to come by observing other members. If they imitate you, will their need for teaching be met? (Titus 2:7,8)
Matthew 5:16 - Let your light shine so men may glorify God because of your good works. Does your example in attendance lead people to glorify God?
Matthew 18:6,7 - It is better to drown in the sea than to tempt others to fall away. If a non-member or new member asked you whether or not they should attend church meetings, would you tell them to attend or to do something else instead? You are answering this question by your example. "Actions speak louder than words." How will you feel at judgment if someone is lost because they imitated your negligence and fell away? How much better to face judgment knowing you gave an example of faithfulness in attendance?
If all people followed your example in attendance, would they learn the truth and receive the encouragement they need to receive eternal life at the Judgment?
(See also 1 Peter 2:11,12; 3:15,16; Philippians 2:15,16.)
We should train our children to be what God wants them to be (Ephesians 6:4). Children are greatly influenced by the example of their parents. "As is the mother, so is her daughter" (Ezekiel 16:44), or "like father, like son." (See also Nehemiah 13:23,24; 2 Timothy 1:5.)
Many parents live the early years of their marriage in spiritual indifference. Later they repent, but it is too late to save their children. How much better to give an example that will properly encourage our children!
As the Twig Is Bent
A little girl with golden curls, her happy face aglow,
Said, "It's time for Bible class. Please, Daddy, won't you go?
They teach us there of Jesus' love, and how He died for all,
And how He wants to save the ones who listen to His call."
"Oh no", said Daddy, "not today. I've worked hard
And I must have one day of rest. I'm going to the creek.
For there I can relax and rest, and fishing's fine they say.
So run along, don't bother me. We'll worship God some day."
Later on, when years have passed and Dad's life is almost through,
He finds the time to worship God, but what does daughter do?
She says, "Oh, Daddy, not today. I stayed up 'most all night,
And I've just got to have some sleep. Besides, I look a fright."
Then Daddy lifts a trembling hand to brush away his tears,
And hears that childhood voice again, distinctly through the years,
As a little girl with golden curls, her happy face aglow,
Said, "It's time for Bible class. Please, Daddy, won't you go?"
- Author unknown (adapted)
Would Paul or other apostles deliberately neglect assemblies or fail to use opportunities to teach (note Acts 11:26)? Are you imitating their example?
(See also Philippians 3:17; 4:9).
If an elder or preacher neglected church meetings when he could come, would you think that elder was qualified for his office or that preacher was worthy of support? If you think faithful elders and preachers are responsible to attend regularly, you should imitate them.
Consider members who are really strong and faithful in all areas of serving God: they know the Bible, teach others, live pure lives, and have obedient children, etc. Can you think of even one such person who neglects the assemblies when he could come? On the other hand, when members habitually miss when they could come, are they generally stronger members or weaker ones? Imitate those who are truly faithful!
By definition, a Christian is a disciple or follower of Jesus: one who is Christ-like (Acts 11:26; Galatians 2:20). Would Jesus ever neglect an opportunity to study with others or to worship His Father? (Matthew 18:20; 4:23; 9:35; 13:54; 15:32; Luke 4:15,16; John 18:20; Mark 10:1)
Are you imitating the example of Jesus, His apostles, and other faithful Christians?
There may be a few members who honestly do not know they should attend church meetings. But deep in their heart, when they are really honest, most members know they should come.
Many of our songs emphasize the importance of worshiping God and studying His word. Do you mean what you sing? We often pray, "Bring us back at the next appointed time." Do you say "amen" to that prayer? If so, you must act accordingly or your words are "vain repetitions" (Matthew 6:5-7; 15:8).
Do you expect elders, preachers, and teachers to come? God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). There is no double standard. If one member is expected to attend all the meetings, then all the members should do so. If one member may choose to stay home, why can't all the members stay home?
What do we call a person who expects others to practice something that he himself will not practice? A hypocrite! (Matthew 23:3,4; Romans 2:1-3,21,22)
Would you want to be with the saints, or would you want to be deliberately doing something else, when you could have attended? Remember, Jesus knows everything we do and will bring it all into judgment, regardless of whether or not we are committing the act when He comes (2 Corinthians 5:10; Ecclesiastes 12:13,14; Revelation 20:12). We never know when He may come nor when we will die, so we should live every moment of our lives as faithfully as we would live our last day (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; James 4:13,14).
Honestly now, don't we all know that we really should be here when the church meets?
Now consider James 4:17 - "Therefore to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." (Galatians 6:10)
1 Corinthians 6:19,20 - Your body belongs to God, not to you, so you should glorify God in your body. But glorifying God is the main purpose of worship assemblies. When people realize that their bodies belong to God, they will use their bodies to worship Him.
Romans 12:1 - Christians should present their bodies as living sacrifices to serve God. But worship is a major part of serving God. So when people have made their bodies a sacrifice to God, they gladly worship Him. They will not allow personal pleasures to interfere.
Matthew 16:24,25 - To be Jesus' disciples, we must deny ourselves. If we willingly give our lives to God, we will receive eternal life. But if we try to keep our lives for ourselves, we will lose them. So, instead of doing what we want with our lives, we should use the opportunities the church gives us to worship and please God.
2 Corinthians 8:5 - The Macedonians gave their money generously because they first gave themselves to the Lord. What is true of money is also true of our time, effort, etc. If your whole life belongs to God, you surely cannot begrudge a few hours each week to worship Him.
Is one putting God first when, rather than attend worship assemblies, he prefers to go to a ballgame or concert, watch TV, go fishing, or vacation?
Is one putting God first when he would rather spend time with friends, relatives, or family instead of worshiping God? (See also Matthew 10:37-39.)
Is one putting God first when he misses assemblies to do schoolwork, attend school functions, or make money, when he could arrange his schedule to worship God?
Is one putting God first when he misses assemblies because he is "sick'" or "lacks transportation," but under the same circumstances he would find a way to work or to the store?
This is the key issue to our whole study! The main reason people do not attend regularly, when they could come, is that they have not set service to God as their main priority in life! They want to use their time to please themselves. But when one views his life as being totally sacrificed to God, he will immediately see that he should worship God whenever the church is meeting, if he can possibly make arrangements to do so. He will want to be there and will not even seriously consider missing.
Yes, there are emergency situations when "the ox is in the ditch" (Luke 14:5). But shouldn't a Christian work diligently to overcome these problems? If the same old ox keeps getting in the same old ditch, why not build a fence, fill the ditch, or sell the ox?
(Note the danger of neglect and drifting - Hebrews 6:11,12; 2:1-3.)
Revelation 5:11-14 - We may not know all about Heaven, but we do know that one of the main activities there will be worship. Elders, angels, and all those who have washed their robes white in the blood of the Lamb will be serving God night and day (Revelation 7:9-15; 15:2-4; 19:4-8; etc.).
So one thing on earth that is much like Heaven is our public worship meetings. Surely worship in heaven will be on a purer and grander scale. But if in this life you do not enjoy praising God, if you begrudge the time spent in Bible study, if you would rather do something other than meet with God's people, why would you expect to enjoy Heaven? In fact, if that is your attitude, what reason do you have to expect that you would ever go there? If our devotion to God is not strong enough to get us to church meetings, why should we believe it is strong enough to get us to heaven?
People who truly love and appreciate God, will love and appreciate opportunities to worship and serve Him. These are the people who will enjoy Heaven, and they are the ones destined to go there!
The story is told of a young man who asked a friend what he should do to get his girlfriend to agree to marry him. His friend replied, "It all depends on whether or not she wants to marry you. If she doesn't want to, you can't make her. If she wants to, there's no way you could prevent it!"
This only slightly exaggerates the case regarding worship. Whether or not one is regular in attendance all depends on whether or not he is really dedicated to God. If he is not dedicated, he will probably miss services. If he is really dedicated, he will want so much to attend that you could hardly keep him away!
In evaluating your church attendance, here are some questions you should honestly ask yourself:
1. Am I really putting God first - before my own desires, before my family, and before everything else in life?
2. Am I genuinely sorry when I must miss - or would I really rather be doing something else instead of going?
3. Would I honestly be fulfilling my duty to God as well by not going as I would be by going?
4. If some "emergency" would keep me from attending, would the same circumstances keep me from other activities that are of great importance to me?
5. Am I seeking to do as much as I can for the Lord, or am I just trying to "get by" with minimal service?
6. If everyone else - including my family and loved ones - were to imitate my attendance, would they please God and receive eternal life?
7. What would I think of an elder or preacher who attends as I do?
8. Is my practice in harmony with what I profess, sing, and pray?
9. What would I do if I knew this was my last day on earth - if I knew I would die or Jesus would come today?
10. What would Jesus do if he were in the same circumstance I am in?
What is your conclusion about your attendance? Are you serving God faithfully? Do you need to improve?
(C) Copyright 2012, David E. Pratte; www.gospelway.com
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