If you've worked in any organization especially a corporate one; either you may have sent or have received at least one meeting request that was labeled as “mandatory” or “required.” When you get a meeting invitation like that, you think attendance is required and not optional, it is compulsory, a must right? But even then it is ultimately up to you whether to follow through or not, though not attending may have consequences.
How about when it comes to attending Church, is it mandatory? Considering the attitudes of many people today it would be easy to conclude church attendance is optional or perhaps only for those who are fanatical. While filling the Natural Church Development Survey I had to answer the average attendance of our church. Has our church attendance increased over the years? If anything it has only decreased over the past two years. We average about 40 people on a good Sunday. While we can give many reasons for the drop in attendance, for me declining attendance is one sure sign of an unhealthy church. You may wonder why the Pastor is all of a sudden concerned about numbers. Well numbers do matter for our church. Early this year we could not conduct a business meeting because we did not have a quorum.
What difference does church attendance make? What does the Bible say about Church attendance? What are the benefits of attending Church regularly? While there can be several benefits I would like to highlight five benefits of attending Church regularly from Hebrew 10:19-25. 1. Church is where we meet God. 2. Church is a community. 3. Church is a place of restoration. 4. Church strengthens our faith 5. Church is a place of encouragement.
I. CHURCH IS WHERE WE MEET GOD.
In Greek (ekklesia) church has a range of meanings: legal assembly, congregation, and assembly of the Israelite, the Christian church or a church meeting as a group of Christians living in one place, the church universal to which all believers belong, the Church of God or Christ. In the O.T Church was known as the tabernacle, tent of meeting, the solemn assembly and when Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem that became a place where God’s presence literally dwelt among His people.
In Matt 16:18 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” After his death on the cross and his resurrection he commanded the eleven disciples and said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Building on that theme Paul reminds the Hebrew believers saying, “Therefore brethren we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus… and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…(Hebrew 10:19-22a) Christ made us possible to come into the house of God which is also called the Church. When we come to church with full confidence of faith we will meet God. As he promised He will show up in Church by His Spirit and meets us at the point of our need. These blood washed, redeemed and faithful ones form a community, and that community of believers are called to be the light and the salt in the community where they are placed.
II. CHURCH IS A COMMUNITY:
One of the clearest findings to emerge from research into happiness is that we are social beings. Undoubtedly we all admit that we need other people in order to be well and thrive. We feel better just being around other people. And we need close relationships in order to be happy. I realized this when my family went on a weekend camping trip, I just did not quite know what to do with myself. Now I realize there is a difference here between those of us who are extroverts and those who are introverts. Those of us who are extroverts will quickly suffer when we have to spend time by ourselves because extroverts are wired to recharge by spending time with people. While those of us who are introverts may be quite happy to spend extended periods of time all by ourselves and are actually refreshed by it.
Regardless whether we are extroverts or introverts we all need people in our lives. This goes back to the Garden of Eden. We tend to think the first human being must have been perfectly happy and satisfied because he had an intimate relationship with God, right? No sin; no heartache; everything was perfect he was filled with God’s love; yet the word God uses to describe him as “alone” And God says that this aloneness is not good.
Community is what we are created for. It is God’s desire for our life. Our vision at ECCOA is to build a diverse community that is committed to seeing lives transformed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What kind of community we want our Church to be? We want our Church to be a loving and caring community. Listen to what one of the all-time great evangelist from New England D.L Moody had to say about church attendance. "Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man."
In the New York Times (Sunday Review) an Anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann highlights several benefits of attending a Church, “ONE of the most striking scientific discoveries about religion in recent years is that going to church weekly is good for you. Religious attendance — at least, religiosity — boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as much as two to three years to your life.” Social support is no doubt part of the story. At the evangelical churches I’ve studied as an anthropologist, people really did seem to look out for one another. Healthy behavior is no doubt another part. Certainly many churchgoers struggle with behaviors they would like to change, but on average, regular church attendees drink less, smoke less, use fewer recreational drugs and are less sexually promiscuous than others. Church is not only a community that we need but also it is a place of restoration.
III. CHURCH IS A PLACE OF RESTORATION.
We live in a fallen world. The world we see has not always been like this; at one point everything was good, beautiful and perfect until Adam sinned against God as a result we see a lot of sickness, pain and brokenness. Men are harassed, depressed, and lost. What God meant for good the enemy has destroyed it? But God didn't want us to remain in our fallen, sinful and messy state so He sent His only son to restore us back to God’s original image and give us back our decency and dignity.
Let me explain what restoration means. It means the act of restoring; renewal, revival or reestablishment. It means a return of something to a former, original, normal or unimpaired condition. Paul writes to the Hebrews that as we draw near to God with a sincere heart, in full assurance of faith God will cleanse us from our evil conscience and bodies by the sprinkling of pure water which is the word of God. Preaching of God’s word is essential in a church service through that God brings conviction, correction, challenge, change and direction. That is why it is so important that you attend Church regularly unless you are sick, or simply out travelling, because that is where you experience cleansing and restoration. In church we are not only restored but our faith is challenged, tested and strengthened.
IV. CHURCH STRENGTHENS OUR FAITH.
Hebrew 10:23-24, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” These words were written to people who were close to losing their faith in Christ. Look closely at these verses. Notice that church attendance has to do with holding fast to our hope without wavering, stimulating one another to love and good deeds because God is faithful.
In the end times it is possible to lose our faith and let our love grow cold. If we try to live out our Christianity all by ourselves without going to church it is absolutely impossible to do so. There are many things out there that can make us depressed, discouraged and loose our faith. But being part of a Church that preaches and teaches the right doctrine not only can we keep our faith but we can actually make it grow. I have seen this over and over, those who forsake the church waver in their faith. They are not stimulated in their faith. They are neither stirred to do good works nor stir others to love and good deeds. What makes us unwavering in our faith? First of all it is our God who is faithful but it is also the encouragement of other faithful believers.
V. CHURCH IS A PLACE OF ENCOURAGEMENT. Vs 25
Vs 25, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” When Paul wrote this letter to the Hebrews some of them were habitually forsaking the meetings of the church. In other words some of them are becoming regularly irregular in attending the Church. So he came right to the point. He told them not to forsake the assembly. It is one thing to come to Church on a regular basis and it is another thing to encourage one another on a regular basis.
We all need encouragement, don’t we? We know encouragement can go a long way. Let’s be intentional and seek ways to encourage others instead of hurting them through our criticism and harsh remarks. People in general are hurting and we don’t want to add more hurt to them. A church should be a place where we build one another up and encourage one another. How can we encourage others? By being there for people when they need us, caring for those who are struggling financially, emotionally, and with sickness, being kind toward the strangers, being hospitable, and not to speak evil of others, by speaking words of affirmation, love and acceptance. Paul tops it all saying, we do all this, all the more as we see the Day Approaching.”
In the light of current happenings in the world and how several things are pointing towards Christ’s imminent return, it is absolutely necessary that we stay connected to a local church where Christ is honored. In closing why is it important that we attend church? Church attendance does make a difference not only in the life of an individual believer but also to the larger church body and to the community where that church is located.
We attend Church not because it is mandated, because it is essential for our growth. Church is where we meet God. It is a community that we need. It is a place of restoration. It strengthens our faith. It is a place of encouragement. If you are not yet a member of a local church I strongly encourage you to become one. The benefits of becoming a member outweigh the problems. For those of us who are members of our Church, I want to encourage you with these words, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as we see the Day Approaching.” May the Lord help us to attend church regularly, because church attendance does make a difference! Amen