The Sin of Laying Out of Church!
Hebrews 10:24-25“And let us consider to provoke unto love and good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves togetheras the manner of some is: but exhorting one another ; and so much more as we see the day approaching.”
Since the time of my conversion to Christ in October of 1966, there has never been a time when I was not active and in faithful attendance and participation in a local church. It has always been a problem for me , as I interpret the scriptures in respect to local church participation, when so many believers consistently lay out of church.
They make excuses for not attending a local fellowship by saying things like: "We just can't find a good church". Or, "we are members of the true, invisible church." Or, "I got hurt badly once by a local church and haven't been back since." One frequently hears them denigrate the importance of membership in, faithful attendance at, and financial support of, local churches, so they stay home on Sunday's and at best watch some church service on TV, and typical just do their thing, whatever that might be.
What is the truth concerning the issue of church membership and faithful attendance? Can a person have a saving interest in Christ and have no interest in the Church that Christ “loved and gave Himself for?” Is habitual absenteeism from the fellowship of believers a serious sin?
In our brief study of this subject of absenteeism, we will discover that in spite of areas of spiritual declension, division, institutionalization, and apostasy, the Church is still the masterpiece of God, the focal point of redemption. Membership in and faithful attendance at a local assembly is of utmost importance in the purpose of God.
How often must one attend a local church? Every time the doors are open? No! In some churches this would be a seven day a week affair. A little poem goes:
“Mary had a little lamb, it was quite a sheep, until it joined the Baptist church and died from lack of sleep!”
In answer to the question, “How often is a member required to attend?”, it is the opinion of this writer that whenever the local fellowship announces its intention to meet for worship, Bible study and other Body life functions, that it becomes incumbent upon all members, who are not providentially hindered to be present and accounted for.
The principle of a weekly Sabbath rest, a one day in seven rest, is perpetually binding upon all believers. It was given for man’s spiritual and physical welfare. The Old Testament Church observed Saturday as its day of rest in light of God’s creation rest. The New Testament Church observes Sunday because of the perfect rest made possible by Christ’s efficacious work of redemption which was authenticated by Heaven in raising Him from the dead on the first day of the week. By devoting the first day of the week to worship God, fellowship with other believers, and to rest our bodies from the week’s toil, we testify that we were made for more than just work and play. We declare that we were made for God; that we rest in a perfect redemption that has united us to God in a forever relationship of love, worship, and obedience. When we constantly absent ourselves from Church, we identify with the Arch Sabbath-breaker, Satan. This rebel drives all his followers in a relentless quest for peace and rest according to their own terms.
Ever wonder why so many experience “blue Mondays”? In most instances it is because they have exhausted themselves in money grubbing, greedy labors, or in fun-making activities on God’s day of rest, worship, and enjoyment of Him and them (His people) and restoration.
Habitual Absenteeism is a Denial of the Faith.
The phrase, “the assembling of ourselves together”, in Hebrews 10:25, is a figure of speech that is known as asynecdoche.A synecdoche is a small part that represents the whole. For example, if you bring a guest a slice of pie from your kitchen into the dining room, they would understand that the small part came from and represented the whole pie. Likewise, the profession of our faith is the whole and our assembling together in church is a part that represents the whole. If we habitually absent ourselves from church, we are denying our profession of faith.
John Calvin, in commenting on this verse declares, “The apostle is describing those who forsake the church and separate themselves from Christ. Habitual absenteeism is the seed of apostasy - of deliberately turning from Christ.”
Habitual Absenteeism Divests of the Protection of the Church.
The Bible teaches that Christians need the group experience of fellowship with other believers to help them remain loyal to the Lord. This important truth can be illustrated from studies conducted to determine the effectiveness of enemy attempts at breaking the spirit of American war prisoners. The findings revealed that soldiers were not sustained primarily by their faith in their country or the rightness of the cause for which they were fighting. They drew their greatest strength from the close attachments they had formed to the small military units to which they belonged. It was further learned that POW’s did not break down from physical deprivation and torture as quickly as they did from solitary confinement or from disrupted friendships caused by frequent shifting of personnel. Attempts to divide men in their attitudes toward one another proved to be the most successful method of demoralizing prisoners.
Those who absent themselves from the church become defenseless, open targets for the Enemy. Without the mutual assistance, prayers, encouragement, and Biblical instruction that comes from regular assembly with the people of God, the AWOL believer is quickly taken captive by the Devil.
Habitual Absenteeism Disrupts the Practice of Faith.
None of the Christian obligations toward fellow believers can be fulfilled in isolation. They all require personal contact with other believers. “Electronic church” is a blessing for the shut in, but the able bodied believer evades scores of Biblical responsibilities by attempting to worship in front of the television set.
In order to be obedient to the Biblical commands of loving one another (Roms 13:8), admonishing one another (Roms 15:4), caring for one another (1Cors12:25), serving one another (Gals 5:13;6:2), of stimulating one another to good deeds (Hebs10:25), and many more such admonitions, we must come together on a regular basis.
Habitual AbsenteeismDeprives of the Learning of the Precepts of the Faith.
The scripture records in Acts 2:42, “…they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship….”Without systematic study of the Word of God under the tutelage of God’s gifted men and women, the believer remains a milk drinking, immature and stunted Christian. Without the oversight of the local church, individual believers will run into grievous error and heresy much more readily.
Habitual AbsenteeismDisavows One’s Participation in the Family of God.
In Acts 4:23, the Bible declares, “And being let go, they went to their own company….” Though trite as it may sound, yet so true is the statement, “birds of a feather flock together.” What can be said of a professing Christian who loves the company of the ungodly more than that of the godly?; who loves the movie house, the sports arena, the nightclubs, more than the church house? One must conclude that this person’s true nature is like that of those with whom he continually desires association.
The impassioned pleas of Italian reformer, Garibaldi, motivated men from all walks of life to join his ranks. Many fell in line with his marching armies having only axes, hoes, or pitchforks for weapons. One old woman joined the marching soldiers with her only weapon being that of a broom handle. When accosted for her feeble efforts, she retorted, “Well, at least they will know whose side I am on!”
Friend, when you are continuously absent from the Church assembled for worship, you have disavowed your sworn allegiance to the Captain of the Host the Lord Jesus Christ. That person who fails to identify themselves with God’s people, has given the unbeliever every right to believe that there is basically no difference between the Christian and the non Christian.
Quite often, I hear people say, “I love Jesus, but I hate the church.” Really? You love Jesus but you hate His Bride – the church that He shed his blood for! If You love Jesus, Jesus loves the church and we need to learn to love what He loves as his followers.
Sure the churches are filled with problems and the best or messy at their best. Why? Because people like you and me go there!
You may have legitimate complaints about the church. Think about this – God has legitimate complaints about you and He still loves you and is committed to your flourishing and growth in godliness.
Eugene Peterson writes, “The church we want can be an enemy to the church we have”. That is a line worth pondering. We knock the real church by comparing it to the standard of an ideal church that doesn’t exist outside of heaven.
We keep searching for the ideal church and never commit to the real church.
Dear friend, faithful attendance at a local church is not optional. If you have been guilty of habitual absenteeism, repent of this sin and seek out a Church where the Word of God is taught and preached in its full authority. Determine to be faithful in every duty of the Christian life. Go because you have something to give and not just in order to get something.