Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 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. For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.
– Hebrews 10:23-27 (NAS)
We are having a guest speaker in April here at Oak Grove. I am really excited about him coming because he is excellent in communicating truth and dealing with contemporary issues. Our normal procedure is to do some kind of marketing to let the Body know who is coming and to invite friends. When we have guests here we want people to be supportive but more importantly we think our guest has some valuable things to communicate and share with our Body. Makes sense…
On the other had I have a bit of an evil streak in me that often tempts me to say, “Don’t let anyone know who is coming or when they are coming”. Hummm that might seem strange to some people but here is my rationale, based in part on the text above.
First, our hope in Christ. The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to hold fast our confession of our hope without wavering because He (God) who promised is faithful. I love listening to great preaching and teaching and while that might be an appropriate attraction for a conference I have real reservation for a local church. Why? Because the very nature of being the church is grounded in “the confession of our hope in Christ, not special speakers. It is amazing how many people will flock to church to hear a popular speaker or for special holiday events like Good Friday or Easter Sunday but they are pretty laissez-faire about coming together with the church at other times; too busy, too tired, too uninterested. In fact for many people gathering with the church is pretty hit and miss. The very warning above is to not forsake the gathering together as His Church and the motivation is Christ Himself, not how eloquent the speaker is.
Second, our purpose in Christ. Some of the key reasons for coming together is to stimulate each other to love and good deeds, encouraging one another and to hold fast to our hope without wavering. The Word will never become secondary or obsolete in genuine biblical churches but we need to be motivated to come to gather with the community of faith to be engaged in the community as a catalyst to build other up in the Body.
Third, the “habit or custom” of believers ought to be gathering together. Hebrews admonishes those who make it their habit to NOT gather with the faith community. It is tied in pretty closely with the idea of “if we keep on sinning” which raises some debate if ongoing sin and selfishness keeps people from gathering or that the habit of not gathering with the Body is the sin. This is very challenging in our culture because we are so individualistic and in dependent and while there is a crying need for relationship and community we are also very afraid of it. We love our freedom and often hate the idea of the emotional commitment to genuinely move alongside others and journey with them in their life experience.
Ultimately this raises questions: Why do you go to church? or better, Why do you gather with the church? What is your primary motivation for gathering? There are so many strange variations of this where you have house churches, church plants and even some rogue groups where a small handful of people are tired of the “established churches” and simply pull a few friends together and call it “church”. Space won’t allow me to comment on all those kinds of things but we have to realize that God has created us for community, to be involved with a collection of believers to anchor our lives in Christ and encourage each other in our journey.
Many recognize gathering with the Body of Christ as a great privilege. Other think it is more of an inconvenience to their weekend. What habit are you building?