Tag Archives: church attendance

What About Hebrews 10:24-25? — David R. Pharr

“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25, KJV).

“(A)nd let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (NASU).

“Let us…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” This is a positive instruction (something the Lord expects us to do). In all the previous “Let us” admonitions in Hebrews, the instructions are broad encouragements to faithfulness. That is, they do not name specific activities. Here in 10:24ff the general admonition, which is to have concern for one another, includes a specific activity by which that is to be done. What is it that the Lord expects us to do that pertains to considering one another? He expects us “not to forsake…” Or to state it positively: He expects us to attend (and participate) in the meetings of the church. The writer names a specific way of showing consideration for one another. That is, to be with them in the assembly to encourage them.

Does “Forsaking” or “Neglecting” Mean Total Abandonment (Apostasy)?

No. It is not about total departure from the church (though continued neglect might come to that). While the Greek word for “forsaking” in other places indicates abandonment, that definition does not fit this context. Instead, he cautions against what had become the habit (NASU) of some, that is, they were neglecting to attend. The participle “forsaking” is in the Greek present and indicates ongoing action, a habit. It is not about those who have denied Christ and no longer claim membership in the body. Rather, it is about those who profess membership, but are not faithful to attend. We are told not to be like them. If we are not to be like those who neglect to attend, we should instead be like those who do attend.

This relates to the admonition to “consider one another.” One way to fail to consider one another is by neglecting to assemble with them. One of the failures of the negligent ones was that they were not considering the welfare of others. Everett Ferguson comments: “Forsaking the assembly is not a sin against an institution, but against the brothers and sisters to whom we owe mutual edification and fellowship (Heb. 10:25)” (233, The Church of Christ, Eerdmans, 1996).

Are Worship Assemblies In View?

Many commentators, both within the church and others, have understood this to be the worship meetings. It has been so understood by many sound and studious gospel preachers. Dedicated elders have cited the text to rebuke members who are careless about missing worship. That so many have so understood it does not by itself prove it, but one ought to consider their views carefully before teaching a radically different viewpoint. The fact that there were other occasions for Christians to be together does not change the fact that there were scheduled worship assemblies that all Christians were expected to attend.

The letter to the Hebrews had the purpose of preventing apostasy. Jewish influences were tempting Christians who were converted from Judaism to return back to their old religion. Part of this pressure was from the fact that they had been accustomed to attending the Jews’ synagogue meetings. When the writer says, “our own assembling together” (NASU), it is possible he was making a distinction between Jewish meetings (which were for Jewish instruction and worship) and Christian meetings (which would be for proper instruction and worship).

“Exhorting one another” was to be in the assembly. This text is not saying that we should exhort one another outside the assembly. Other texts teach that, but that is not the point here. Rather it is saying that we need to attend because it is an occasion for exhorting one another. The purpose of church meetings is for edification (1 Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16).

To argue that the word “worship” is not in the passage is to beg the question. What is in the text are assemblies that Christians are instructed to attend. The writer’s purpose was to name a specific occasion when they could edify one another. There is no gathering which would provide more edification for the group than when they are together worshiping.

The fact that other contexts indicate other gatherings is not the question. Is there a Divine command to have regular social meetings? Here is a Divine command to attend. What assembly activity is set in place until the Lord returns? It is the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:26), which would be accompanied with other acts of worship every Lord’s Day. Is this a necessary meeting of the church in the New Testament pattern? Why would the inspired writer give a specific command if there were no specific meetings in view? We appreciate the value of meals together, of home Bible studies, even of business meetings, but none rank to the level of assemblies for worship.

The word “church” actually means “assembly.” “To be a church it must meet…the church must manifest that it is a body by being together” (Ferguson 235). It is in its assemblies of worship that the church manifests itself as a distinctive body of people. When Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch they identified with the church in their assemblies (Acts 11:26). Paul’s practice was worship with the local congregation wherever he went, for example at Troas (Acts 20:7ff). It is unreasonable to assume Paul had no other contact with the brethren in Troas during the week he was there. Doubtless he had several meetings with various ones. However, the only assembly named was the appointed time for worship.

What Assemblies Are Required?

The New Testament pattern requires the Lord’s Day meeting. This is set and provides for no optional meeting in its place.   Regardless of what other occasions there might be when Christians might meet together, Hebrews 10:25 requires Lord’s Day attendance.

The leaders of a congregation, such as elders, may determine there should be other occasions for meeting together. When in their spiritual judgment they determine a reasonable schedule (such as Sunday night, Wednesday night, special series) for the purpose of spiritual enrichment, it behooves the membership to participate. This Is not to say their judgment is equal to a Divine command, but every member ought to respect their guidance (Heb. 13:17). Just as in the Lord’s Day gatherings, these meetings provide for exhorting one another, for edifying (1 Cor. 14:26).

Some have asked, “Can you prove it is a sin to neglect attending Wednesday night classes?” This deserves being answered by another question: “Can you assure people that they are not sinning when they for frivolous reasons choose not to attend?”

Ultimately, it’s an issue of the heart.

David is a member of the board of directors and the former editor of the Carolina Messenger. He is an elder of the Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ in Rock Hill, SC.

Some Observations On Church Attendance — Johnny O. Trail

What keeps you away from the assembly of the saints?  I honestly believe that there are potentially valid reasons for one to miss church.  We should all be thankful for emergency responders, hospital workers, and others who provide vital services during Sunday assembly.  No person would want to arrive at the emergency room and see a “closed” sign hanging up on the door.  By the same token, we want someone to answer the phone when we dial 911 regarding a life or death situation that impacts us in some fashion.  Thus, there are people who sacrifice their family time and time at church to keep our nation safely running.  We are thankful for their service and sacrifice.  Moreover, there are people who are “providentially” hindered.  I would imagine that most members of the churches of Christ have heard these words uttered in a prayer.  Providentially is defined as “relating to or believed to be determined by providence.”

Over several years of preaching, I have noted that those who are hindered by various health and mental issues are the ones who want to be at church the most.  Still, there are people who do not attend church because they are simply too sick to be in the congregation.  I personally know of people who suffer with fibromyalgia and various other chronic diseases.  By experience, I know that those suffering with chronic problems would much rather be in church than at home suffering in pain.  I am of the opinion that God understands a person’s circumstances when they are hindered by health related issues.

We have noted that there are valid reasons why a person might not be able to come to church, but what about the other reasons that might be considered?  Can a person choose to be absent from the assembly and sin by their choice?  I firmly believe so.

Church attendance is up to the individual but is not optional in nature.  That having been said, it is hard to judge the motivations behind one’s decision not to attend. Some might believe that it is bothersome to spend a few hours a week in the assembly.  Under the Old Testament law, certain worshippers expressed the same sort of attitude.  This is meted out in the minor prophet Malachi:  “Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord.  But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen” (Mal. 1:13-14).

In all honesty, there is work involved with coming to church.  I am always reminded of my wife, Jada, when we see young mothers struggling with children in the assembly.  Since I was always preaching or teaching a class, she had no help in the pew with children who were small enough to be in diapers.  I remarked to her and young parents in our congregations, “It is like moving a small army!”  Still, these godly parents make every effort to get those little ones into the assembly.  I remember asking Jada one Sunday after the services, “How was my sermon?”  She responded, “What little I was able to hear of it was fine.  Your son wiggled on me the entire time.”  In light of these things, one might ask, “So why go?”

Suffice it to say, she went to demonstrate the importance of being in worship and in the presence of like-minded saints.  All of my sons have been baptized, and they actively participate in the worship of the church.  Before they were old enough to understand what was happening, they would pass around our drink coasters and pretend that they were passing around the trays for the Lord’s Supper.  We have a photograph of our middle son in a diaper, standing behind a potato box, holding my Bible, and delivering a “sermon” for all to hear.  This was because he had parents who cared enough to bring him to church.  More specifically in our case, he and his brothers had a godly mother who was willing to do whatever it took to get them to church.

If you are a husband who can sit in the pew with your family, please help your wife.  If you are a mature member of the body, encourage and offer to help families with small children. Seek to encourage them as they struggle with attendance and rambunctious children. We want to continually pray for our young families as they struggle with schedules and bringing their children up on the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6.4).

Still, there are some who see church attendance as a “weariness” because they had rather be doing other things.  Some families have chosen recreational activities over being in the assembly with the saints.  That having been said, I personally know of families who attend early services before sporting events so that they can demonstrate the importance of church assembly to their children.  Still, there are families who have sacrificed their souls and families to the god of sports and entertainment.  We demonstrate our priorities by the choices we make.  If you fail to make Christ and being in the assembly a priority, so will your family members.

At this point one might quote Hebrews 10.25:  “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”  This passage refers to continually and purposefully being absent from the assembly, and it would include, in my estimation, times other than Sundays. Contextually, it is written to Christians who are discouraged because of various persecutions they were facing.  In part, we attend to church to help us remain faithful (Rev. 2.10) and encourage good works (Heb. 10.24).

Several years ago, I was in an assembly where a brother led the following portion of a prayer.  “Heavenly Father, please punish those who are absent from church simply because they have chosen not to be here…”  I wonder how many of our brethren would tolerate such a prayer?  I believe that it is scriptural because of the following passage:  “For the Lord disciples the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.  It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Heb. 12:6-8).  I sincerely believe that this prayer was uttered in loving concern for the brethren.  We are concerned when we do not see YOU in church.

Johnny preaches for the Sycamore Chapel Church of Christ in Ashland City, TN.  He is a practicing marriage and family therapist.  He is married to Jada and they have three sons, Matthew, Nathan and Noah.

 

Ways To Encourage Each Other – Adam Carlson

Webster defines encouragement in part as, The act of giving courage, or confidence of success; incitement to action or to practice; incentive.” Encouragement is something that everyone needs, especially within the body of Christ. The focus of this article will be to look at some ways in which this can be accomplished along with examples. This is a needed topic and one which will hopefully be beneficial to each reader.

Encourage by being there for one another.  Israel, the descendents of Jacob, fought against the Amalekites, the descendants of Esau (Ex. 17:8; cf. Ge. 36:8-16). During the battle, Moses was encouraged by Aaron and Hur to uphold his arms because he couldn’t do it alone (v. 12). It’s the same way today. One can’t do everything alone. That’s why we need to make a conscious effort to be there for one another in times of need. The words of Solomon come to mind. Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away” (Pr. 27:10, ESV). When Christians realize the blessing of encouraging and being encouraged by one another, this is something that will become much easier to practice.

Please be there to fulfill the needs of brethren. I have been on the receiving end of encouragement during times of great need. The brethren stepped up and encouraged me and from their comfort I can hopefully pass on similar encouragement to others who need it.

Encourage by speech.  Hezekiah is a good example of one who could encourage. When he restored the system of worship as given to Moses, the following words are recorded: “And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the LORD. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the LORD, the God of their fathers” (2 Ch. 30:22).

In another instance during his reign Judah was invaded by Assyria (2 Ch. 32:1). During this time of crisis, Hezekiah spoke to the commanders of the army: “And he set combat commanders over the people and gathered them together to him in the square at the gate of the city and spoke encouragingly to them, saying, ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles. And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah’” (2 Ch. 32:6-8).

Brethren can do a great work by simply speaking encouraging words. Christians are instructed to speak in a truthful and gracious manner (Ep. 4:25, 29; Co. 4:6). Words are indeed a powerful thing and great caution must be practiced before speaking (Ja. 1:19). The example of Hezekiah should be followed in that our words should encourage those who need it and inspire confidence in those who listen.

Encourage by helping new converts.  I would be amiss if I didn’t mention Barnabas, who is introduced in Acts 4:36. Notice how he was known as “the son of encouragement” because of his ability to encourage the brethren. Also consider the way he assisted Paul after his conversion. The brethren were experiencing a great deal of trepidation because of his previous conduct (Ac 9:26). Notice what Luke says next: “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus” (Ac. 9:27, emphasis mine). It must be realized that one who is new to the faith is need of encouragement often times due to their background. Some may face opposition from their families, others may face other struggles. They need to know they have people who love them and will do all they can to encourage them in their new walk.

Let us examine another episode in the life of Barnabas. Luke writes, “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord” (Ac. 11:23-24, emphasis mine). The church needs people of the character of Barnabas who will practice encouragement on a regular basis. Physically speaking, children – especially infants – are assisted in their growth and development. It’s no wonder Paul talks of this in a spiritual sense (1 Co. 3:1). He uses this same analogy in describing their approach to new converts in Thessalonica (1 Th. 2:7). The writer of Hebrews speaks of his readers’ child-like state in spiritual growth (He. 5:12-13). Peter also uses similar language to describe this growth process (1 Pe. 2:2). There are none who would neglect to make sure infants are physically growing. It shouldn’t be any different with a new brother or sister in their spiritual growth. This is accomplished by continual teaching and encouragement as they grow.

Encourage by being present. Encouragement can be as simple as being physically present and assisting the brethren with a task. The descendants of Reuben and Gad wanted to stay on the east side of the Jordan River rather than accompany Israel to fight for the rest of the Promised Land, but Moses told them, “Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the LORD has given them?” (Num. 32:7). We later read that they did what they were supposed to do and went into battle, thus encouraging rather than discouraging (v. 18).

People can be encouraged by our presence. It was for this reason that Paul sent Tychicus to Ephesus and Colossae (Ep. 6:21-22; Co. 4:7-9). Remember the words of David: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” (Ps. 122:1). By being present when the church gathers Christians encourage and are encouraged by each other.

These are a few practical ways and examples of how individual Christians can encourage each other. We all need encouragement, whether we wish to acknowledge it or not. Encouraging someone doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. It can be as simple as sending a note to someone who’s struggling with something in their life, whether it be the death of a loved one, finances, job security, or whatever other problem of life which comes their way. Encourage those who are laboring in a worthy manner to continue on in that good work.

It would be good to remember that there may be a time when you may be the one in need of encouragement. Therefore, help those who need it so you can first practice it in your own life. Remember the words of Paul when he spoke to the elders of Ephesus: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Ac. 20:35, emphasis mine).

adamcarlson130@hotmail.com