Although I once gave little thought to church attendance, I now lean toward viewing serial church skipping as a sin against the congregation.
If that sounds a little harsh, here are my reasons why.
Consider for a moment secular organizations.
No one is ever considered a part of a basketball team without having to commit to practice times.
You will promptly get kicked out of a theater production if you only attend every other practice.
Employees are fired from organizations when they fail to come to their job.
Of course, the church is not merely an organization, social club, or team, but that’s also precisely the point.
Too often, we readily accept the necessary commitment for worldly matters of lesser importance, while shirking commitment to the things of God, namely being His church.
As a member of Christ’s body, your fellow members expect your commitment to the church; in fact, they need it.
WHY WE MEET TOGETHER
Attending church is not simply for your benefit; it is also so that others can benefit from you. Hebrews 10:24-25 says it like this:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not 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.
Meeting together grants us the opportunity to love and encourage others, while also being loved and encouraged by them. We cannot complete our walk with Christ without this encouragement. Hebrews 3:12-14 emphasizes the importance of encouraging one another (particularly to continuous repentance):
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
Notice that the author of Hebrews purposely connects encouraging one another to finishing our lives in faith. The solution for an evil, unbelieving heart is the exhortation and encouragement of one another in Christ. We need our brothers and sisters to help expose for us the deceitfulness of sin.
Therefore, a Christian without a community is an unbiblical concept. Repeatedly God’s Word reminds us that we need each other in order to finish our race.
Because of this, neglecting to meet together as Jesus’ body is a sin against our brothers and sisters because we rob them of our encouragement and exhortations, as well as our gifts, talents, and abilities.
Of course, everything ultimately hinges upon the heart. Certainly, physical attendance is not required in the case of those who lack the ability to leave their home, and the church should strive to meet with them regularly where they are. Vacations, visits to family, and other such things are also a normal aspect of life.
We cannot be legalists about how frequent attendance ought to be, but we must also refuse to compromise on what the Bible clearly commands. Both extremes are equally damaging to the church.
EVALUATING THE HEART
Since the heart is what truly matters, take time to prayerfully answer these questions, considering and evaluating how you view gathering together as Christ’s church.
How many times did you miss church over the past three months? What were your reasons for missing those Sundays?
Sometimes we simply do not take the time to consider how often we might be missing church. Reflecting upon our number of absences may help reveal any unhealthy patterns.
Do you regularly attend church? What is regular attendance for you? Would your fellow members agree with your definition?
Do you delight in meeting together with your brothers and sisters, or is going to church more of an obligation?
Here is the BIG question to ask because this gets to the root of the matter. We can attend church every week, but still fail to biblically meet together. If church is not a time of revitalization and encouragement, then we likely have an incorrect view of the church.
How would attending church during vacation make you feel? Why?
Like the previous question, this one hits the heart of the issue. Reluctance to attend church on vacation probably indicates that we view church as life-draining, not life-giving.
What would you consider valid reasons for missing church? Why?
Everyone has a line in the sand on this issue. Where is yours? Is hospitalization the only thing that keeps you away? Is catching up on laundry a sufficient reason for not meeting together? What about sporting events? Extra-curricular activities of our children? Exhaustion?
My heart with this post is not stamp SIN on everyone’s head; instead, I want encourage deep self-evaluation (and if necessary, repentance) on this topic.
As a pastor, I am almost never absent on Sunday mornings, but the battle between delight and obligation is always raging. It is far too easy to view the worship and sermon as “work” rather than being soul-feeding fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Viewing church as a restful activity is often difficult, but it is restful. Jesus commands us to come to Him for true rest (Matthew 10:28), and we know that Jesus is found in the presence of His people (Matthew 18:20).
Gathered together, Jesus ministers to us through our church family.
We desperately need each other.
Do you believe that?