In the last several years, observers of American church life have noted that the definition of a regular church attendee is changing. To skip church is a regular thing now. With increasing affluence, mobility, commitments and entertainment options, many Christians gather with their church family less often than they did 10 years ago. Previously, a regular church attendee was a person who “only” gathered with their church one time a week. Now a regular attendee is a person who may attend twice a month.
We often don’t think about what happens when we don’t regularly gather with our church. Sure, we may think about what I might miss. “I won’t hear the sermon today, but I can read a book, listen to Christian radio, or catch up on the podcast.” “I love to sing worship music, but I can do that in the car on the way to where I am going today. I don’t have to go to a building to sing praises to Jesus.” We make these excuses to ourselves and use them to justify how I can make up for what I am missing when I miss gathering with the church.
WHEN WE SKIP CHURCH, WE NEED TO SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE
What if you miss something bigger than missing out on a sermon or singing when you don’t gather with your church body? We have heard the words of Hebrews 10:24-25 often. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” These Christians faced the temptation to stop meeting together because of the persecution faced, but they could not stop. The writer reminded them of their responsibilities to each other. They must stir up each other to love and good works. The way they accomplish this is by “not neglecting to meet together” and instead regularly meeting to encourage each other. The writer’s logic here is simple and we can’t argue with it—you cannot encourage people you do not see.
You come to an important realization when contemplating the message of these verses. Instead of only thinking about what you miss when you miss gathering with your church family, also think about what others miss because of your absence.
Do you see the difference in perspective here? When only thinking about what you aren’t getting, you view the church with a consumer mentality. The church becomes another place where you receive goods and services. However, when you begin to see the church as a people to whom you belong, your motivation for gathering changes. The main worship gathering, community groups and having people over for dinner become a means for you to give as well as receive.
WHEN WE SKIP CHURCH, THE CHURCH IS MISSING A LIMB
You may think people don’t miss much when you aren’t around, but consider the metaphors the Bible uses to describe the church. Paul pictures the church as a body, a temple and a family. Each of these metaphors stresses the church’s interdependency. If the church is a body and you go AWOL, the body will not function properly. Since the church is a family, when you don’t gather with them there is an empty seat at the table. The church is a temple and you are a brick in it, so the whole structure is weaker and more vulnerable when you are not there.