As a pastor, I’m committed to church attendance. That goes without saying, but many people assume that my commitment to regular church attendance is based primarily upon the fact that I’m a pastor–more of a “well, of course you think it’s important,” rather than an understanding of why regular church attendance matters. The reality is that church attendance must matter to us because it matters to God. He warned the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews to not forsake to gather together, but to gather for “encouragement.” There are times when church attendance isn’t convenient or doesn’t seem beneficial, and I want to argue that it is during those times especially that church attendance is crucial. Just this past week in our own family, we have seen the value of our church family investing in our life during a trying period. Our 5 year old daughter hurt her leg last Saturday, and after an X-ray the next day following Sunday morning’s service, we learned that her leg was broken. She was splinted and miserable. her attitude was terrible and her normally bubbly personality was nearly non-existent. Angela and I briefly contemplated not taking her to church for our equipping studies on Sunday night because it was going to be difficult for us and because she was so miserable.
What a disservice we would have done to Aubrey to keep her away from her church family during a time of great stress and trial in her young life. The temptation for us was to retreat into our comfortable home and stable family. Of course, that temptation would have resulted in movie time with mom for Aubrey, but it would also have resulted in Aubrey not experiencing the love of her church family as they surrounded her on Sunday night with kind words, hugs, smiles, and even small gifts. Aubrey left church Sunday night excited and yes…encouraged.
The warning to the Hebrews was that temptations and trials from the world would seek to drive us away from regularly meeting together with our church family. The exhortation to the Hebrews, however, was that gathering together for fellowship and worship was worth the cost. God has created us as relational beings. You need your church. Yes, if the church is doing its job then the people of the church are caring for those in need during times other than the normal gathering times, but, unless you are making yourself available during normal gathering times, the church is often unaware of your struggle or trial.
Satan would keep us separated from our family, his desire is to steal, kill, and destroy, and that is a much easier task for solitary sheep than for those who are gathered together under the shepherd’s protection. When do you need to gather with your church the most? When you desire it the least. You need encouragement and exhortation that comes from engagement with God’s people and God’s word. Are you in sin, gather with your church family so that you may hear words of correction. Are you under attack? Gather for protection. Are you weak, sick, or hurting? Gather so that the church can pray for you.
What has Aubrey’s broken leg taught us? The church is a place of healing, but your church family can only care for you when they can get to you. There is encouragement in the fellowship of your brothers and sisters. Aubrey asks us constantly when she gets to go back to church…why? Because it is there that she feels most at home, around her extended family who have taken it upon themselves to encourage and exhort her toward physical and spiritual healing. What a wonderful picture of God’s family, behaving like Christ, binding up the broken and bandaging the wounded. Satan’s goal is to separate us, the spirit of Christ is one of unity. So, go gather with your church, you need them and they need you.