December 14, 2006

If they don't come . . .

I’m still thinking about the folks who profess faith in Christ but do not attend church. Most who are in church every Sunday write them off, but I don’t. I often wonder what made them turn away, pray for them, and feel their absence.

I’ve heard those in church quote the verse about not forsaking the assembly of ourselves together. Sometimes smugness is obvious, as in “I’m obeying this command—what’s wrong with them?” But the Bible has lots of commands and all of us miss some of them.

Being together is important though. The context of that verse (in Hebrews 10) shows why: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Attending church is a declaration of my faith. I really believe this stuff. When I want to stay away (and the thought happens), it is often because I’ve great doubts, and am “fed up” with God.

I’ve had other reasons, also in this passage. I’ve sinned and instead of going to God in confession to receive assurance of His forgiveness and the cleansing only He can give, I want to stay home and not let anyone know that I’m in a rebellious state and fighting with God. It is futile—most of us know who wins that battle—but for a time, I just want to hide.

Another reason is wavering hope. For instance, I’ve prayed for years for the salvation of loved ones. Their lives continue on in unbelief and sin, just as if I’d not prayed at all. Where is God? Where is the answer? When I lose hope, I want to do something else besides church.

Another problem is not caring enough about others. God put me in the Body of Christ as one member, needed by the other members and important to the health and functioning of the other parts of His Body. Too often I attend church so they can minister to me, but the Bible is clear; no matter how useless I might feel, I’ve also an obligation and a role to play in ministry to them. We need one another. I’ve holes in my theology, I forget important truths, I have emotional needs, I cannot find the answer to some spiritual problems, and so it is with other believers. Yet everyone of us has solid places in their thinking, remembers truths and answers, and can stir up love and good works in someone else.

As soon as I read this passage, the thought came to mind that if someone says they believe but does not come to church, why can’t the church go to them? Why can’t I take my assurance of faith, the message of forgiveness and cleansing, and my hope in the One who is faithful to those who need to hear it?

Or just visit them. Show them God cares by showing them I care. If, for whatever reason, they have abandoned “assembling ourselves together” there is no reason why the rest of us have to abandon them. I’ve never heard of a ministry focused on restoration, but maybe God is calling me to start one.

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