Church Attendance - Is it Necessary?

        The story is told about a preacher conducting a funeral service for church members who failed to attend the assemblies of the church. He reasoned that since these were not alive and active, they must be dead and therefore should have the benefit of a funeral. He placed the names of several “dead” members in a small artificial casket. The “funeral” was held on Sunday evening. Some of the names were:

Miss Lotta Services I Wanna Stayhome
Illa Comeback Someday I B. Bored
Dan Ratherbe Elsewhere I M. Luke Warm
Phil Mypew Formee Ima Inna Badmood

Obviously this “funeral” never really happened, but if such did take place how many of us would be represented in that "casket"?

        While many church members today apparently think it is of little importance to attend the church services, we need to be reminded that God has always been concerned with the assembling of His people together for worship. Long before the Lord's church came into existence, the duty of assembling was an important practice during the Mosaic period. The Lord even ordained two silver trumpets to call the people together (Num. 10:2-3). The attitude of faithful Jews was expressed by the Psalmist when he said, “I was glad when they said unto me let us go to the house of the Lord” (Psalms 122:1 NASB)

Good But Not Necessary?

        Some today seem to believe that it is good to attend, but if there is something else of interest to do, church attendance is of lesser importance. The fact is, it is not only good to assemble, it is sinful not to do so. Clearly the Lord considered assembling together for worship and fellowship as a vital part of the Christian's life. It was important enough to the Lord that He commanded Christians to meet regularly to engage in worship: “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” (Heb. 10:25).

The Early Church Assembled

        The practice of the early church meeting on the first day of the week was recorded in Acts 20:7. This set before Christians of all ages the inspired example that is imitated by the faithful today. "And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight."

        The church of Christ at Corinth met on the first day of the week. They were to use this regular day of meeting to contribute: "On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and serve, as he may prosper that no collections be made when I come." (1 Cor. 16:2).

        Christians who desire to please the Lord must still assemble on Sunday to worship Him. It was on this special day that Jesus arose victoriously from the grave. It was on Sunday that Jesus appeared to His disciples before ascending into heaven. It was on Sunday that the church of Christ was established. It was on Sunday that the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles to guide them into all truth. It was on Sunday that the disciples of the first century observed the Lord's Supper.

0nly On Sunday?

        But what about our attendance to assemblies that occur on other than the Lord's day? The early church certainly did not limit their assembling together just on Sunday Consider the following:

        All of those who were converted on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem were together and had all things in common (Acts 2:44).

        Later the disciples met and prayed together (Acts 4:31). Still later, Peter, having been released from prison, went to the home of John Mark and his mother Mary where many had gathered together for prayer (Acts 12:12).

        Barnabus took Saul (Paul) to Antioch where they met with the church for an entire year and many were taught (Acts 11:26). When Paul and Barnabus returned from a missionary journey they gathered the church together and reported to them all the things that God had done through them (Acts 14:27).

        At Corinth the church gathered together for the purpose of disciplining a wayward member (1 Cor 5:4).

It is not reasonable to conclude that all of these assemblies took place on the Lord's day. Those who might conclude such should be reminded of Acts 2:46 which states "And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple..." When we think of the many assemblies the early church had, the direct command that they were not to miss assembling together takes on more meaning than just the Sunday morning worship.

Hindrance From God?

        The only hindrance that should keep one from the assembly is a hindrance from God. If we are ill or otherwise hindered by the Lord, He does not expect us to assemble.

        However the truth of the matter is that we often stretch an excuse to such an extreme that we create a hindrance and say it is from God. Parents may run around with their children all day long on Wednesday but when evening comes the “children are just too tired to go to church.”

        Sometimes secular work is done at the time of church meetings when it could just as easily be done at other times. Or sometimes we knowingly schedule ourselves for nonessential activities that will regularly keep us away from church assemblies on Sunday night or Wednesday evenings. Have we ever considered how insulting to the Lord it must be for us to feel well enough to go anywhere and do anything, except to meet with the brethren?

Seek First the Kingdom

        It is a strong congregation whose members can be counted upon to assemble together unless they are truly hindered from the Lord. The principle that Jesus stated in Matt. 6:33 to “Seek first the kingdom of God” is the basis that faithful Christians should use in determining whether or not to assemble with the church. Placing the Lord's church before the other things that compete for our time and energy is certainly the proper attitude.

The Lord in Our Midst

        If we believe Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three have gathered together in my name there l am in their midst,;” we will then realize that if we absent ourselves from the assembly, we remove ourselves from a meeting where the Lord is present.

We Miss Instruction

        When one misses the assembly he not only misses meeting with the Lord, he also misses the receiving of valuable instruction. Since he is not there, he will not be edified with the rest of the saints. (1 Cor. 14:12.) Who among us is so filled with information and wisdom that we have no need for further study or a need to be built up in the faith?

        The Christian life is one of constant growth (2 Pet. 1:5-7). One may learn something from every lesson taught, or at least be reminded of great Bible truths. How often a spiritual lesson is taught, but many who need to hear it have chosen to stay home, go fishing, play golf or be elsewhere. Building a strong congregation is the work of every member. A strong church cannot be built by a weak membership. It is difficult to build strong Christian character by erratic attendance.

We Miss Communication

        When one does not attend all the services of the church he also misses communication with other Christians. Some members feel like “outsiders” because they never seem to know what is going on in the congregation. The reason for this is quite simple. They fail to attend the assemblies where congregational news is given.

We Miss Association With Christians

        When we do not attend the various assemblies we also miss association with other Christians. We all need the association of brothers and sisters in Christ so we can encourage others as well as be encouraged. We need to comfort others as well as be comforted. "And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds." (Heb. 10:24).

Just a Private Matter?

        Attendance is not just a “private matter” as some would like to think. Other Christians are looking at us, and they are affected by our examples. It is a very serious matter when a poor example is set before a weak brother or sister. A poor example in the matter of attendance might well set a new or weak member on the road to a complete falling away.

Our own children are being told by our pattern of attendance what we consider important and what we consider unimportant. If we allow the smallest thing to keep us away from the assemblies, surely we are giving a message that is loud and clear to our children. The attitude of the parent will likely become the attitude of the child. Camping, fishing trips and recreational activities are good and beneficial, but surely they can be arranged so that the Lord will not be neglected.

Encourage Each Other to Attend

        We can become stronger individual Christians, and stronger congregations if we will all become faithful attenders of all the assemblies.

        The exhortation of the Hebrew writer is just as applicable for us today as it was for the church of Christ over nineteen centuries ago: “And 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.”