A recent poll asked Americans if they have attended religious services in the last seven days. The current result was 31% attending. It was 49% in the 1950s, 40% by the 1970s and 34% before the pandemic. And now, it’s down to 31%. I suppose that there are multiple reasons for this decline. Let us look at reasons why people may not attend and reasons why attendance is important for true believers.
For some, the reason for not attending is lack of faith. Some simply do not believe in God or in Jesus Christ. Others believe, but for a number of reasons do not go to church. For some, it may be they have to work. Some are physically unable to attend. Some prefer to do something else besides going to church such as sleep in, work on chores or hobbies, or have some sort of recreation. Then there are those who are upset with the church; maybe they have been offended, or don’t like those who preach, or they don’t like what is taught, or they don’t like the music, or they don’t want to face someone who is normally at the assembly. Since the pandemic, some church assemblies are broadcast; for some, it is preferable to stay at home and watch a broadcast rather than assemble. Some believe that it just isn’t important to assemble. Then there are those who feel they can better worship God in other ways rather than come to an assembly; maybe they go out into the wilds and see God’s creation and worship Him as the creator. There could be a number of reasons for not attending services.
Many have assumed that the purpose of the church assembly is to worship God. While it is certainly good and wonderful to worship God together, the Bible does not seem to indicate that as the sole purpose of the assembly. Those under the law of Moses worshiped God by offering animal sacrifices. The Christian sacrifice is different. Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Other translations render this last phrase as “which is your spiritual act of worship” or “which is your spiritual service of worship”. We are urged to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. I understand that to mean that we give ourselves completely to serve Him. When we do what He wants us to do in all areas of our lives, we worship Him. When we thank Him and praise Him for what He has done and is doing for us, we worship Him. We should worship God in the assembly, but true worship of God is a full time activity.
One of the few biblical examples of the Christian assembly is found in Acts 20:7 “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.” In this example of an assembly, we have the breaking of bread and the message of Paul. The breaking of bread for the disciples would have been the observance of the Lord’s Supper. One account of Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper is given in 1 Corinthians 11:24-26 “And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” This remembrance and proclamation supper could have been done independently by each individual believer, but it wasn’t. This was something they came together to observe. There is something powerful when we observe the Lord’s Supper together; we share a common salvation and together we proclaim this to the world. Those who do not assemble miss what Jesus wanted Christians to do together for the Lord’s Supper.
The second thing we learn from Acts 20:7 is that Paul spoke to the brethren. We do not know the content of Paul’s message nor should we assume that that is the only thing that happened when they came together. But a message of teaching and encouragement is certainly appropriate in the assembly. 1 Corinthians chapter 14 gives us instruction concerning the Christian assembly. In verses 5, 12, 17 and 26 it addresses edification. Verse 26 concludes by saying “Let all things be done for edification.” My conclusion is that one of the primary purposes of the church assembly is edification. This word “edification” means to build or to promote the spiritual growth and development of the character of believers. Encouragement would be another form of edification. We live in a world where it is difficult to maintain our faith and keep ourselves unspotted from the world. We need edification and encouragement.
The writer of Hebrews encouraged his readers with the following in Hebrews 10:23-25 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 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.” The writer encouraged us to consider our fellow Christian, to stir up love and good works. God did not make us islands isolated from each other. Instead, we are part of a body where each member of the body needs the other members of the body. Then the writer says “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another.” You may not feel the need to assemble. But what about your fellow Christian? They need you. Coals of fire stay warm when they are together but tend to grow cold when they are separated and by themselves. You have a responsibility to exhort, encourage, and edify other believers.
I encourage you to desire to assemble with other believers who are like-minded so that they can edify you and you can edify, exhort, and encourage them and together you can worship God.