Monday, August 18

Why go to church?

In the 80 days we have been back in the USA we have been asked to speak only twice about our life and ministry in Ecuador. Both times to Sunday School classes made up of seniors ages 65 and above. Both times were a delight, but as we have sat through service after service in a half dozen or so churches, the one passage that keeps coming to mind--and one I would love to share with the churches if given the opportunity--is Hebrews 10:24-25.

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. (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

Alan Knox recently posted an excellent response to this verse entitled But I have perfect attendance addressing the very question that continues to nag at me week after week as we visit churches here in the States. Alan writes...

Specifically, what are believers required to do according to this verse?

The command in this passage (actually, an imperatival use of the subjunctive) is "let us consider". The purpose of "considering one another" is to stir up love and good works. Thus, the author of Hebrews expects believers who have the freedom to enter the presence of God (Heb 10:19) and who have Jesus as their high priest (Heb 10:21) to demonstrate that by thinking of ways to exhort others toward love and good works in their lives. This is the command, not "assembling".

So, what part does "assembling" play in this passage. It plays a secondary role. The author of Hebrews recognizes that we cannot exhort one another towards love and good works if we never meet with one another. Similarly, we cannot stir up one another towards love and good works if we do not encourage one another. The two participles ("not forsaking" and "encouraging") play an important, but secondary, role in the requirement of considering one another in order to provoke love and good works in each other's lives.

So what? We're still supposed to assemble together, right? Yes, in fact, according to Scripture, believers will want to meet together with other believers. Assembling together is not required in Scripture, but it is expected. However, attendance alone does not meet any scriptural requirements. It is possible to meet together with other believers and never fulfill the purpose of thinking about how to spur one another on towards love and good works, and then exhorting them towards that goal. A "perfect attendance" award means nothing to a believer.

If we meet together in a way that precludes us from encouraging one another toward love and good works, then we are not meeting in a way that Scripture prescribes or describes. Similarly, if we require attendance, but do not allow believers opportunities to exhort one another toward maturity, then we are not helping people to follow the teachings of Scripture.

Instead of someone saying, "I don't think I've seen you around here in the last few weeks", what if they said, "I noticed that you haven't encouraged anyone around here in the last few weeks".

Yes, I know. It is much easier to count noses. It makes us feel better to have a "full house". But, attendance means nothing if people are not exhorting one another toward maturity in Christ...

So let's continue meeting together - whether in large or small scheduled weekly meetings or in large or small spontaneous meetings. But, let's come together for the right reason: not to count noses and record attendance, but to consider one another in order to stir up one another towards love and good works.

9 comments:

Dion said...

Good point made. I've missed your blogging, but I'm glad you're refreshing.
How much longer are you here in the US? Will you be anywhere near Ohio before heading back?

Tim Patterson said...

Guy,

If you are coming anywhere near Nashville, let me know.

Camel Rider said...

I'm sorry for the lack of response. It's kind of strange that this is how people are responding...when we've been pooring all kinds of resources into personalizing missions over the last few years.

Maybe they would respond differently if they saw you every year for a week or so.

To me it shows two significant things....
1. We continue to be seen as outsourced workers. Our ability to connect and network is hindered by our overall strategy. We need to be networking and connecting the way people do in the states...within their natural circles. Creatives attending creative churches....trads with trads and so on.
2. We as a convention continue to seperate mission from the core of the church. It's one aspect but not vital.

Maybe with the coming November changes....we'll see some of this change.
Camel Rider

Burkhalter Ministry said...

Great Stuff Guy...
I am SHOCKED that you guys haven't been asked to share in more churches... are you kidding me! You guys should be leading your own House Church conferences... We look forward to hanging out with you a little next weekend at H2H...
Beth and Travis

GuyMuse said...

Dion,

Yes, being up here in the States we haven't been as active in our blogging. If we get up anywhere near Ohio we'll be sure and give you a shout.

Tim,

I'd love to come to Nashville, but no plans to do so this time.

Camel,

Now that we have been up here a few months I can relate to importance of your statement, We need to be networking and connecting the way people do in the states...within their natural circles. We are "outsiders" trying to break in with our agenda where the calendar is already full. Like you say, the coming IMB changes ought to address some of these kinds of issues.

Travis and Beth,

We too are looking forward to next week's conference. I will be coming on Thursday to the pre-meeting for HC networks. See you guys then.

Anonymous said...

Guido,

I am sorry to hear that you have not had more chances to share what God is doing in Guayas. After almost twenty years out of the USA we truly indeed are outsiders. I worked very hard last STAS to network but with little visible success. Out of site, out of mind! I look forward to the forthcoming changes never the less said changes will not change a weak, anemic USA church that does not really understand what missions is all about. Missys need to be more prophetic in nature. With love and great patience we proceed with those who have been faithful in their own way to support us monetarily and in prayer.

One of the most exciting things overseas, albeit is difficult is teach new believers what is and how to be a NT church!

Esteban

Anonymous said...

Guy,
With regard to the original intent of your post (not the sorry state of Church USA), just showing up is a form of encouragement. It may be part of mere human nature, but people get excited when the crowd is large and they get down when the crowd seems small. Or when they get to see someone they hoped to see because they are there, then they are encouraged. Conversely, if someone does not show up that they usually see or hoped to see, it can be discouraging.

I'm sure that the instruction to encourage one another can involve more than just showing up, but it starts there.

Randel Trull

GuyMuse said...

Esteban and Randel,

Thanks to you both for your comments. After several years of not being active in traditional churches, it has been interesting to once again spend time and be part of this expression of the Body of Christ. I am toying with writing a post about some of my observations over the past few weeks albeit coming from my non-traditional, simple church perspective. Stay tuned!

Dave Quinn said...

Hi Guy, I really appreciate that you linked Hebrews 10:25 with verse 24. Most people don't and as you suggested lose the meaning. They make verse 25 all about meeting together and neglect the why factor. To encourage and exhort each other to love and good works. For me that is the missing thing in many churches. We meet, but rarely truly connect and encourage each other to good works. It both saddens me and disappoints me that we don't remember to do that.