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by Bill Denton
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. (Hebrews 10:23-25, NAS)Venice Church announces its Frequent Attender program free upgrades to aisle seats and complimentary chocolate-on-the-pillow treatment. (Cartoonist Kevin Spear in Leadership, Vol. 13, no. 4
Its a sign of our times. Though the cartoonist Kevin Spear provides us a laugh, the sad truth is that a lot of churches are seemingly resorting to all kinds of things just to get people to attend. Lack of church attendance has motivated all sorts of things, from providing more entertaining services, to finding ways to better serve the members and guests. There are critics who taught these changes as the salvation of the church, and other critics who bemoan them as the death of the church. I dont pretend to have all the answers to that argument, but I do see some items of interest worthy of a little thought.
It seems to me that a falling-off of church attendance was a problem even in the first century. Else why would the writer of Hebrews say, ...not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some...? I think it is clear that there have always been Christians who have not seen assembling together as something high on their priority list.
Moreover, I think it is clear that both then and now, we dont always have an understanding of the real reasons for assembling together. We are prone to think that we attend church assemblies for our own benefit. In other words, we attend so that we might gain something from the experience. Now, dont misunderstand: I believe we gain a great deal for ourselves by attending church. However, that was not at the top of the writers list of concerns in the book of Hebrews. Instead, he was more concerned about what we might do for others. ...let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. . . Encouraging one another... Assemblies of the church work for each of us only to the extent that we understand our obligation to bless and encourage others. That is a decidedly different way of looking at things than is commonly done.
I believe there are tremendous rewards to be found by assembling with other believers. The truth is that serious faithfulness just cant happen as a loner. We need the help of each other and we need to be helping each other. Assembling together is part of the confession of our faith and hope. Sure, there are times when church assemblies are anything except awe-inspiring events, but I wonder if its because the assembly isnt what its supposed to be, or whether those who have assembled arent what theyre supposed to be? Its worth thinking about.
At our church, were not going to upgrade you to an aisle seat if you show up regularly. You just have to get in early for those choice aisle seats! And, were not going to shower you with promotional items, nor give you the chocolate on the pillow treatment. We will try to love you, involve you in what were doing, encourage you. We hope that we will all feel uplifted by our shared experience. Well try to do this by worshipping together in simple, but spiritually uplifting ways. Well focus on Scripture, not some book-of-the-month. Youll be encouraged to participate in our assembly and not just be an observer. We think that puts us all on the right track. But, we still need for people to attend to make it work and be a blessing!
Author: Bill Denton
Publication Date: February 5, 2002
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