A Challenge to Assemble

Heb 10:25: …not staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

So today I’m putting the finishing touches on a Romans 6-8 talk, and this passage just blows me away every time.  It’s like the climax of the whole Bible!  Truly life changing, if we understand it and embrace it.  Whether I can deliver the goods this weekend or not, we’ll see, but I’m excited to teach this stuff to the church I love.

Then the thought hits me and guts all my excitement, “no matter how good this talk is, only about 1/3 or less of my church is going to hear this, take this in, to be encouraged by it in the company of their sisters and brothers.” That’s based on trends in the church in America overall, and trends at AC3 currently.

Now, I ask you the question, what constitutes a “habit of staying away from church meetings”?  How would you know if that’s YOUR habit or not.  You’d want to know that, wouldn’t you?  You’d want to know if you were in standing violation of a clear Apostolic order, right?  The church meets (and has since Day One) every 7 days – so out of roughly 50 chances a year, how many do you have to miss before you call it a habit of “staying away”?  ½ of them?  Two thirds of them?  Is it only a habit of “staying away” if you stay away from all but two – Christmas and Easter?

Now, I’ve gone and made you uncomfortable probably.  You’re already charting your attendance in your head – don’t bother, we already know, for the average AC3er, it’s about once a month or less.  And now, maybe you’re getting a little defensive and muttering something about “legalism” and “church isn’t a meeting” or some other nonsense we say when we know something is amiss and we don’t want to look at it.

As to legalism, would you say the same thing if we talked about the habit of neglecting your diet and exercise?  The habit of neglecting sleep?  Would we call that being legalistic?  No, we’d put that in the category of “stuff we warn ourselves and each other about because we love and we want to see ourselves flourish and grow and get what we need and live within our design”.

Ok, so maybe that gets at something underneath the “habit of staying away from our meetings”.  You say, “that’s just the thing, frankly, I don’t NEED them every 7 days.”  Some beater cars need tune ups every few miles, BMW’s every 100,000 miles – I guess I’m just a spiritual BMW!  I don’t get a lot from the inputs, the worship or the messages, I mostly get what I need for my Christian life away from our public gatherings.

Really?  I debate whether that is so, but let’s say it is.  Go back and read the verse enjoining you and me to not neglect our weekly gatherings.  For whose sake is this important?  Is it primarily so you get a spiritual shot in the arm?  Is it primarily so that you can say you served in KK and did your duty?  Is it primarily so that you got fed?

I’m reading something different, let’s say it together:  The primary reason I should not neglect coming to the public gatherings of the church is so that I can ENCOURAGE OTHERS.

Hmmm… maybe you’ve never thought about that before.  Maybe, you need to be here – weekly – because someone else needs to see you here.  Maybe – except for obvious breaks on vacation, illness, etc. – you need to be here, for others, not for you.  How individualistic are we that we think the church gathering is only about meeting my need?  And if I deem it meets no need, the gathering itself is expendable, superfluous, not a priority.

I challenge you to rethink this whole thing, with one final thought:

The apostle notes a reason to meet “all the more” – because you see the Day approaching.  I know many of you are deeply disturbed by the waves of secularity sweeping not just this nation, but the world.  It does seem, does it not, that a climax of confrontation is coming that only the “Day” will fix.  And yet often it’s the very people who wring their hands at the coming storm, and who curse the darkness the most, who do not bother to double down on the only thing Jesus ever gave us to feel hope in this broken world:  his Body, the Church, holding out the Word of Life.

Finally, the Church is by definition an “assembly”.  Those that are called out – out of world, out of chaos, out of the mess and out of darkness and into his wonderful light.  And how will we stand as light, unless we see each other – regularly – doing so?