Hebrews 10:24, 25 “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
The crystal clear concern of the writer of Hebrews throughout the book and especially in this passage was the brethren’s spiritual weakness and possible return to a lost state. In no less than 84 verses in Hebrews, the writer warns of both the potential and the consequences of falling away. But, you know, it’s interesting — in an attempt to get them to grow, he doesn’t talk about reading more Scripture, as important as that might be; he doesn’t mention more prayer, even though it is really important; he doesn’t stress involvement, despite the contribution that it makes to spiritual growth. What he does offer as a solution to their danger was attendance to the church’s assembly.
We might be tempted to say, “Really?” And that’s because we live in a time when church attendance is often disparaged as being not really all that important, having little to contribute to Christian growth — a poor cousin to Bible reading, prayer, meditation, fasting, or other spiritual disciplines. But the God-inspired writer of Hebrews strongly disagrees.
So, what makes the assembly so important? What’s the big deal about skipping the assembly from time to time? Well, let’s list a few things…
- Here the worship of God takes place. “Oh,” you might say, “I could do that at home or anywhere.” But the possibly shocking truth is that you cannot — not the way that honors God as He wants. The gathered church is His Temple (Eph. 2:21), thus, corporate worship is something special to the Lord. It both worships God, and makes a statement to the world (see the 1 Cor. 11:26 passage that talks about making a declaration to the world “until He comes”).
- Here is the fellowship that we need (Acts 2:42-47) — yes, even you “Jeremiah Johnsons” out there, we NEED it — and it can only possibly happen, of course, when the church gets together.
- Here the word is not only read (1 Tim. 4:13) but explained (Acts 17:3), and we are encouraged and held accountable (1 Cor. 14:24) to live it.
- Here the Lord’s death and resurrection are remembered and openly proclaimed until He comes (1 Cor. 11:26). Here in the bread of communion and in the midst of the assembly, we are reminded about the body that we have been made into. Here in the cup of communion and in the midst of the assembly, we are reminded of the covenant that we have entered into with first God and then our brothers and sister in Christ, the church (1 Cor. 10:16,17).
- Here our spirits are lifted through spiritual songs that remind and inspire us to following Jesus faithfully (Eph. 5:19).
- Here we lift our hearts up in prayer to bear one another’s burdens (Eph. 6:19) and appeal to the Father in Heaven about things we have agreed upon (Mt. 18:19) — and yes, there is something quite powerful about corporate prayer that individual prayer cannot muster.
- Here we put our financial resources together to do more than we could on our own for the Kingdom (1 Cor. 16:1-4).
Moreover, Hebrews 10:24,25 tell us that our absence is not only a detriment to us on a personal level; it is a detriment to the spiritual growth of the whole church. Speaking as someone who has had to answer the questions of discouraged brethren about why others aren’t coming, I can tell you unequivocally, it definitely effects others — and we must consider our brothers and sisters or we have sinned (Romans 15:1,2 and 1 Cor. 3:16,17). And it is even more so if you are a teacher (of children or adults), a deacon, an elder, a preacher or a leader’s spouse — unexplained absences or absences for “lesser” things, in effect, tell younger Christians (kids and adults alike) that skipping church is OK — and their faith grows weaker. The fellowship obviously grows weaker without you. And the singing (and therefore the encouragement) won’t be as strong. Even the congregation’s prayers will miss your “Amen”.
The bottom line here is that when we fail to show up for worship for reasons that are within our control, we are choosing to weaken both ourselves and the church. Everyone is is placed just a little closer to the peril of falling away; some on the edge actually do so. The Hebrew writer, inspired by the Lord, knew exactly what he was talking about, and his warning and encouragement is exactly what every generation of the church needs to be reminded of to aid its spiritual growth.