As a pastor this is frustrating to me. I hear the reasons often for why such and such didn’t make church. Church today is becoming a shared priority. It’s been a slow pendulum shift from the 1980’s and 90’s when church attendance and faithfulness were seen hand in hand. Sunday school 10 am, Worship hour 11 am, monthly Potluck 12:30 pm, Sunday evening church 6 pm, Wednesday Bible study 7 pm; and the really spiritual folk did visitations Tuesday night! Gone are the days when being a busy-church goer meant you were paddling against the currents of other distractions in the world. Church commitments were almost meant to distract you from the nonsense of poor choices with your time. Yes, there was a day when you weren’t taken to be a serious minded Christian if you missed these events even irregularly.
Bring in the 2020’s.
20 and 30 years have passed, and now the babies from that era are all grown up, and the faint memory that remains is of a time when church seemed ‘peculiarly hard – and time constraining.‘ The things other kids were able to do, we could never do. So that generation is now grown up, feeling free molded by the pervasively preached anti-legalistic gospel. So the old model of church didn’t work, they say. Throw in changes in the American culture– Child centered approaches in parenting, two-fully employed parents, the need to pay off exorbitant college loans, the desire to provide our kids with more than we had, has shifted the interest away from ecclesiastic priorities to domestic and personal priorities.
Sunday church meetings now seem hollowed out rather than hallowed in. I believe the quest for the American dream is eroding our hope for Heaven. Since there’s a new ‘no judgment zone’ culture if someone misses church, we are left thinking that missing church because of other priorities is quite acceptable. As such, my personal beef is not whether the individual reasons for missing are legitimate, but rather that the accumulations of ‘good reasons’ have we reached a tipping point in my thinking to where Sunday church (or even other church gatherings) have become optionally valued because they compete with other ‘necessary’ events. And so I ask, have they become a shared priority? Has all the preaching against church-legalism created this growing apathy? And if the answer to the first question is ‘yes,’ as a believer I’d want to know why? Why isn’t church day a priority? Especially when the following text, which has almost been wholly discarded as a serious proof-text for church attendance, due to it bring preached so often to guilt folk into repentance; speaks precisely to church attendance. Check it out again (my footnote commentary adjacent);
Heb 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Survival tight grip on the hope of eternal life. Imagine the grip you’d have during a tornado, holding on some safety anchor.
Heb 10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, we must stir ‘others’ up because as verse 23 implies, ‘wavering’ is a real problem and potential. Don’t go it alone!
Heb 10:25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Meeting together accomplishes this much:
- Since verses 23 and 24 are the goal, verse 25 is the goad. Assembling together is the goad that will accomplish the goal of holding fast without wavering.
- It helps you see your confession of hope more clearly (v. 23)
- It helps keep you from wavering (v. 23)
- It directs you to other saints who move you to love and good works (v. 24)
- Church is the place of exhortation – notice it’s not from just the Elders, it’s one-another. It’s a multi-faceted collection of persons who invest in this. Hearing a message by the way from your own Elders, is quit different than listening to Sermon-Audio (a good thing) but not a replacement for the preaching of your Elders who watch over you. Their messages are tailored to the needs of that meeting group. And God is directing them. I think if nothing else, to disregard your Elders is to disregard the authority of the one who has appointed them to such a task. So you need to be there (Hebrews 13:7). There are few times in which God has spoke of a time or place as being essential, and he is saying ‘assembling of ourselves together’ is essential enough as to not be forsaken.
In conclusion, it’s so vital to our spiritual health that we return to a mindset where being together on Sunday is our chief scheduling priority. Because our soul’s health and the soul’s of others in the church is our chief priority. Consider rescheduling that travel Sunday until after church or return from a trip Saturday night; sacrifice lost sleep and be there, insist that guests who come in town go to church with you, find a job that doesn’t require Sunday shifts during church. Involve yourself with children’s sports on a non-Sunday, or surrender the sport. If an event is on a Sunday, consider the worth and value of being together as more valuable than anything else you have to do. Don’t say to yourself, ‘well I’m not sinning if I miss church.’ You may not be, but to him who knows the good he should do and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17). Christ is Lord of his church, and these are his words; let his people dedicate themselves with faithful participation.