December 18, 2017

Attendance to the Church

By Dennis Abernathy

There is an old American saying, "Let's get down to brass tacks." It dates from the nineteenth century before the day of the department store. In the dry goods stores of that day, the measurement of cloth was done my means of brass tacks set at the edge of the counter and spaced about a yard apart. This method of getting exact measurements is the origin of that saying, "Let's get down to brass tacks." It means to talk about things in plain terms that are based on facts.

In this article, we want to "get down to brass tacks"; we want to speak in "plain terms" about faithful attendance to the church assemblies. God has always required assemblies by his people for specific purposes. In the Old Testament there was the observance of the Sabbath and other holy days along with the various festivals. In the New Testament we have scriptural evidence that Christians assembled to worship God on a regular basis. The fellowship enjoyed by Christians in the assemblies was a vital and impressive thing. Men and women from all ranks and stations in life met together, saluted one another and praised God. Apparently all of them found something in the assemblies, for they were constantly coming together (Acts 2:44; 4:31; 20:7; 1 Cor. 5:4; 14:23,26). Assembling together was not a matter of "have to" but "want to." They were brothers and sisters in Christ . . . and members of a family love to be together. They assembled in expectancy and departed with a blessing.

We are admonished not to "give up meeting together" or as the King James Version translates it: "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" (Heb. 10:25). Assembling together with the saints for worship and fellowship should play a vital role in every Christian's life.

Surely we realize that God emphatically requires obedience to his will. Obeying him strictly and carefully is not "legalism" as some would call it, but rather, a deep and detailed concern for doing the precise will of God is reflection of our faith in God and of our love for him. Faith in God causes us to implicitly trust his every word. Love for God causes us to desperately desire to please him.

1. With regard to attendance many are just not willing to pay the price. King David, long ago said, that he would not give a sacrifice to the Lord "that costs me nothing" (1 Chron. 21:24). But, many Christians today would! The majority today are apparently looking for a religion which "costs them nothing. " They are seeking after a " convenient religion." They will come to the church meetings if everything is just "so-so," and nothing else comes up to hinder them. Many have adopted the doctrine of Jeroboam by reasoning that "it is too much" to attend the assemblies of the saints if it interferes with what they want to do (see 1 Kgs. 12).

Some brethren act like the rich young ruler in Mark 10. He heard the word eagerly. He believed what Jesus said. He wanted to obey. But he went away grieved, because he was unwilling to pay the price. What a tragedy! Listen carefully: God never said it would be easy to do his will. Jesus said, "difficult is the way which leads to life," in Matthew 7:14. But some, it appears, automatically assume that if faithful service to God (attendance to the services) makes it difficult on them, that they can just dispense with it altogether. But didn't Jesus encourage us to "count the cost" and warn of the exacting demands of discipleship? (See Lk. 14:25-33.)

If I am going to follow Jesus, I must be willing to give up everything, to sacrifice all! This includes possessions, family, my time, my recreational pursuits, and even my own desires. My brother or sister, are you willing to pay the price? Would you have sacrificed Isaac if you had been Abraham? Would you have sold everything if you had been the rich young ruler? Would you have divorced your wife if you had been the Jews of Ezra's day (Ezra 9-10)? Will you give up or sacrifice some of the cares of this life to faithfully assemble with the saints? Or, will you reason that God couldn't possibly require anything so costly and extreme? Please remember, that going to heaven is worth everything! "For what will a man profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26)

2. We all find time to do what is important to us. Even at our busiest, we seem to find time to go and do what we really want to do. Parents seem to find the time to get their children to the ball practices and ball games. We find the time to make the various club meetings and community functions. We take our turn working the concession stands for band, choir, etc. We go to movies, take week-end trips, etc. What do we do when a big event comes up? Maybe it is a big ball game or trip. We began early to plan our schedules so we will be able to attend. We don't plan anything for that particular time. Why? Because this event is important to us and we want to go! I'm afraid that too many brethren plan worship assemblies around their schedules rather than planning their schedules around worship assemblies.

How important is the worship of God to you? How important is the encouragement of your brethren to you? David said: "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord" (Psa. 122:1). Are you glad to come to the assemblies of the house of the Lord (the church, 1 Tim. 3:15)? Examine your record for the past year. It will tell you something about the importance of worship to you.

If we do not have time to read the Bible, pray, write a note to a sick brother or sister, call a friend or brother, worship God in the assemblies of the saints, then these are not as important as some other things that we make time for! Didn't Jesus make this point clear for all to see, when he said: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:21). A short article by the late and beloved Luther Blackmon makes the point well. Read it and profit:

Have you ever tried to picture in your mind what would happen if some eccentric multi-millionaire philanthropist should announce in the local paper that one night during one of our meetings (he would say which night) he would give each person present one thousand dollars? Well, I have. And in fancy's vision I see a strange and motley crowd. The rich and the poor, the fat and the frail, Republicans and Democrats, scoffers and cynics, "God-is dead-ers," segregationists and integrationists, the famous and the infamous. People who haven't spoken to each other for years would sit side by side if necessary. The once-a-weekers and onceIn-a-whilers would be there. Grandpa would rub his "rhumatiz" leg with some goose grease and turpentine, and he would be there. Folks who haven't been there because they were afraid to drive at night would chance it; all the backsliders would suddently warm up and suddenly take their place up where they could be seen. All the puny excuses and anemic alibis and other kinds of lies we have been telling ourselves and others about why we didn't attend worship would disappear like dirt before "intensified Tide" or roaches before "Raid." We would have crowds that would make a democratic convention look like a country picnic that is, until the money was passed out. We would look for a slump after that. What kind of "Christian" would do for money what he will not do for the sake of his soul?

3. Is assembling for worship a chore and boring to you? A newspaper article appeared some time ago stating that a particular denominational church in Mesquite, Texas will drop Sunday services during the summer and hold its worship meetings on Friday evenings. When asked about such a practice, the pastor stated: "We asked ourselves why do we demand that the only chance for recreation for urban man, Sunday, be negated by attempting to drag the people into the church and do the same thing to that day that the world does to every other day."

A few observations are in order: It seems clear that these people are more wrapped up in recreation than in worship. So, they want to make it as convenient as possible. Don't cut into the only time we have for recreation. (Being in Texas, and high school football being as popular as it it, I can already tell you that they will disband services on Friday evenings.) The Bible teaches "and upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread. . . " (Acts 20:7). But, to people who are more concerned about recreation on Sunday than they are the things of God, who cares what the Bible teaches!

The "pastor" said they were "attempting to drag the people into the church." Sounds more like a trip to the dentist. Poor people - worship just keeps getting in the way of the demands of urban man!

We nod our head and sigh at such shallowness of conviction. But, I am wondering how many in the Lord's church feel this way. When the beach is beckoning, the fish are jumping, the new putter needs to be tested, or some leisure outing calls, how many feel it is an inposition to have to go to church. Have you decided that Sunday evening is wasted in going to the church assembly? What about Wednesday evening? What of gospel meetings and special studies? Are you casting your vote to cease worshipping at these times? Which is worse, to change the Lord's day services to suit our recreational desires or to just miss the Lord's day services for the same reason?

The prophet Amos condemned Israel for worshiping on God's holy day, but at the same time wishing that it would soon be over so they could get back to their own selfish pursuits (see Amos 8:5). The prophet Isaiah, long ago warned:

If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord (Isa. 58:13-14, NIV).

We are seeing more and more Christians who are lax with regard to church attendance. Why? I don't know all the reasons, but it surely evidences a lack of love for God (Matt. 22:37) and our brethren (Heb. 10:24). It definitely says that our affections are not where they ought to be (Col. 3:1-2). It loudly declares that first things are not first with us (Matt. 6:33).

But, what will this practice indicate for the future? Children will be taught, if not by word, surely by example, that the worship assemblies are not very important. Certainly not as important as recreation, school activities, community functions, family reunions, etc. The next generation will be even weaker than the present one with regard to attendance. Children will seldom do better than they are taught. If parents do not faithfully attend the assemblies of the church, can we expect better of the children? I think not. Parents, I beg you, please do not fail your children in your service to God, but set that good example in word and in deed.

Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 8, pp. 236-237
April 16, 1992

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