More Thoughts On Attendance

life-864387_1920William J. Stewart

If you haven’t read last week’s article, please do so. If you have read it, perhaps you noticed that there were no Bible references in it. None! It wasn’t by design, it just happened that the article developed into a pair of lists – bad things that result from failing to assemble and good things that result from being at the assembly. This week, we want to look at what the Bible says about our assembling together.

Principles From The Psalmist
Psalm 122 begins:

I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD.’ (Psalm 122:1)

David was glad when he heard such an invitation. He desired to be with God’s people and to worship the Lord. What is our response to such an invitation? Do we want to be with fellow Christians, so we can worship God and encourage one another, or would we rather be somewhere else doing something else?

In another Psalm, we read:

Make a joyful shout to the LORD … come before His presence with singing… Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. (Psalm 100:1, 2, 4)

Do we come together every opportunity available to praise God? How often do we enter His presence (publicly) to give thanks to the Lord? As we look through the writings of David, it is evident that he desired to worship God publicly at every opportunity available. This is part of what made him a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). Does our focus on public worship make us men and women after God’s heart? And if not, then who’s heart are we following after?

Attendance From The New Testament
Before we look at what the New Testament says about attendance, let’s acknowledge what it does not say. There is no “thou shall attend every assembly or else” verse. The way some speak about attendance, you’d think there was such a verse. There isn’t. Don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting that Christians don’t need to assemble – if that were the case, it would be pointless to write an article on the topic. However, in our zeal, we need to be careful not to go beyond or fall short of God’s word. We need to teach what the Bible says about attendance, not what we wish it said.

So, what can be learned about attendance from the New Testament? Notice a few things:

  • Thomas for an unspecified reason was not gathered with the other disciples (John 20:19-25). Jesus was there, Thomas was not! Every time the Christians are gathered together, Jesus is there. Are we? His absence that evening was directly responsible for what must have been an awful week. The rest of the disciples knew Jesus had risen from the dead, but Thomas continued in unbelief. What knowledge and encouragement are we not getting by our absence?
  • Throughout the time they walked with Jesus, it seems the disciples were almost always together. After Jesus ascended to heaven, they were together in prayer (Acts 1:13-14). Their relationship to Jesus is what united them and caused them to be together as often as they were. Do we have a close connection with fellow Christians? We ought to. Our relationship to Jesus should result in a close relationship with His people.
  • In fact, we cannot reject Jesus’ people without rejecting Him. The Bible calls the church the body of Christ (Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:11-16; 5:30; Colossians 1:24). How can we claim to have a relationship with Jesus but rarely assemble with His body?
  • After the people on the day of Pentecost obeyed the gospel, we’re told what they continued to do from then on (Acts 2:42-47). They assembled to hear teaching, for fellowship, to remember Jesus, and to pray. This was not a once in a while thing – it was very regular (v 46). They desired the company of people of like precious faith. How often are we together? Do we anticipate every occasion with God’s people?
  • When Paul was in Ephesus, he met daily with the disciples and others who sought to know the word of God (Acts 19:9-10).
  • Acts 20:7 says the disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread. Which week? The inference is that they did this every week (see the parallel Sabbath command, Exodus 20:8). Do we meet with the disciples every first day to break bread? It should be understood that if it is the first day of the week, we should be with the disciples, breaking bread, giving of our means (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), praising God, and encouraging one another.
  • While pointing out the unfaithfulness of national Israel, the writer of Hebrews appealed for Christians not to depart from God, but rather to exhort one another daily (Hebrews 3:12-13). How better to be exhorted by fellow Christians than to be at the assembly of the saints? And if we do not have the regular encouragement of fellow Christians, how can we expect to not repeat the unfaithfulness of Israel?
  • The Hebrew writer rebuked the recipients of his letter for a lack of spiritual growth (Hebrews 5:12-14). Was their problem a failure to assemble with fellow Christians (see 3:12-13; 10:24-25)? Every assembly is an opportunity to learn God’s will and to grow in faith.
  • Finally, look at Hebrews 10:22-29. God wants us to draw near, hold fast and assemble together; not to stay away, let go and forsake the assembly. We have a responsibility to encourage one another (v 24). We cannot do that by not being at the assembly. In fact, when we choose not to assemble with God’s people, we become a discouragement to others.

    We do not want to misrepresent and misuse this text – it is not about a missed assembly from time to time. The word forsake {Gr. εγκαταλειπω} means to leave behind, to desert (Strong’s). However, we must acknowledge that desertion of the assembly and of one’s faith doesn’t happen overnight. It is a process, and that process will involve decreasing attendance over a period of time. Are you assembling less and less? If so, then you are on the road to forsaking the Lord. Forsaking the assembly (ceasing to meet with the church) is identified as a willful sin (v 26), and results in judgment (v 27-29).

Friend, you need to be at the assembly to grow; others need you there to be encouraged, and God wants you there.

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