Thursday, June 01, 2006

Why go to church?

Why go to church? As one man expressed it to me years ago, one can worship God as well alone by a babbling brook. Yet, when we read biblical accounts of the early church, we discover a resounding emphasis on the importance of community: Christians grow stronger when spending regular time together.
Acts chapter 2:42-47 records that the earliest Christians met together in homes daily. Other passages suggest meetings that took place on at least a weekly basis.
Hebrews 10:25 is a frequent focus for discussion on this topic. At times, it is approached as a command - "Don't forsake the assembling of the saints." Certainly, it underlines the importance of assembling with other Christians. It supplies several reasons why such attendance is imperative.
We worship together as a means of drawing near to God. This term often is used to refer to prayer and prayer can be done alone. Prayer in community has great power. We worship together to encourage other Christians. The original readers of Hebrews included discouraged Christians. They were drifting away. The assembly provides a context for remembering that others share our beliefs and that someone else cares about us.
We worship together to "stir up" each other. That expression can mean to provoke to anger, and some Christian assemblies may seem focused on criticism, but the reason for the assembly is to stir up to love and good works. Ephesians 2:1-10 teaches that God created Christians to do good works. "Church" reminds us what our mission is.
Hebrews 10 has horizontal reasons for church attendance (encouraging) but also vertical (we have had our consciences sprinkled with the blood of Christ and our bodies washed with water, drawing near to God through the intercession of our Great High Priest) reasons. This chapter which talks about the importance of church attendance for remaining close to God also describes judgment for those who do not. The verse in this chapter "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" is addressed to Christians about Christians who have turned their backs on their Savior.
I write this not to scold forsakers of the assembly, but to encourage attenders to participate actively in the services, to make the assembly where you are an encouraging experience. Smile at others. Don't rush out the door when the final amen is spoken. Stay and talk. Someone may need your help. The answer to your problem may be in that room. Sing out, focus on the prayers, readings and sermons, be there. Stir someone up to love and good works.

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