Two days ago from the pulpit, I asked the question, “Is church attendance essential?” This in keeping with a wider municipality question: “What businesses are essential?” That question now begs what we think about church attendance. Cutting to the proverbial chase, the answer is, "Yes, it is essential!" God’s Word commands Christians to “assemble together” or “not forsake the assembly.” We are not talking about meeting occasionally but regularly. It is unequivocally clear that not meeting disobeys Scripture’s clear command.
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. (Hebrews 10:25)
The Bible does not stop with a command but gives clear reason why obeying it is more than a good idea. When believers do not gather they “drift” and drifting is detrimental to spiritual growth. Not growing as a Christian is a dangerous threat that leads to deadness and to a lack of any real connectivity to God and consequently a lack a hope. This condition is both discouraging and threatening to yourself and others whom you love. Hebrews 2:1 roots “drifting” in not paying close attention to truth. Specifically, to what the church has “heard” (Heb. 2:1), which, for the sake of my argument, to expository preaching!
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. (Hebrews 2:1)
What we hear when we come together is preaching from God’s Word. What is lost when we choose not to gather is likewise preaching from God’s Word. Our sin nature living inside each one of us constantly pulls our hearts away from the truth. This imperceptible drift is simply slipping downward, away from God, away from Christ, and away from God’s people. This is not usually dramatic or even discernable; nothing seems wrong. But make no mistake, drifting is always happening.
If you buy a brand new car (which I have never done…), you know that as soon as you drive it off the lot, the car’s value plummets. Every single mile that you drive, value attrits. Similarly, the more you drive past church, the more you attrit spiritually. When we gather under God’s Word to hear preaching we curtail this inner pull and hit the reset button. This is the same for all of us. I recently confessed that when I preach I feel closest to God. When I say my final "amen," like driving off the lot, I begin to attrit. It is not long before I need the reset I get from preaching.
It is fascinating how COVID-19 has stripped the church down to its core. What makes church essential week-to-week is hearing from God. The days of the modern church growth movement are suddenly a thing of the past. Going as consumers and not worshippers, quenching the Spirit of God over the last three decades is now in check. The sin of “what have you done for me lately” consumerism is now silly. Churchgoers leave their scorecards home. Competition between churches that are more “with it” with programs and gimmicks is not present day reality.
The church in New Testament language, ekklessia, literally means “the called out.” True worshippers, called by God, to gather in the name of Christ. Consequently, the decision to come to church rises not out of being a customer who is shopping but a worshipper who has an offering. To attribute value or worth (where we get the word “wor[th]ship”) to God. Worshippers come to give not take. To offer and then to receive.
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.'" (Acts 20:35)
You can divide everything in daily life by whether you are being a consumer or worshipper. Yesterday I made a conscious decision to give rather than take while driving through the Fred Myer’s parking lot. While customers nervously waited to cross the parking lot to go in, I sat in my Bronco frustrated with the congestion of people and cars. However, I made an attitude adjustment. I just starting waving customers across the lot so they could get to their store. They appeared shocked asking, “Why is this person letting me go?” You may have done the same thing. People jogging nervously as if they are putting you out as you patiently wait in your car. The difference between being a giver not a taker is dramatic.
Allow me to bring this full-circle back to answering why we need expository preaching more than ever. Gathering for worship is essential because expository preaching gives you the clearest vision of Jesus Christ. That said, here is my logical train of thought in sum for this blog.
- We gather because if we do not we will drift away from God.
- We drift away from God because we allow ourselves to drift by forgetting the truth (cf. Heb. 2:1 “…what we have heard”).
- We forget truth when we stop sitting under expository preaching that shows us Jesus Christ.
- We gather both to prevent drifting away from God and to return from drifting away from God.