By H.E. Phillips
Personal Reasons For Attending All Services
There are certain duties that I owe to myself in attending every service of the congregation where I regularly worship. We shall list some of them here.
1. God’s people are a called-out people from the world. They are called out for a purpose; that purpose being to serve God in spirit and truth. Having been called out of the affairs of this world, we have certain obligations to the institution into which we have been called. These obligations continue as long as we live on this earth. Could one continue in these obligations and be absent one or more times each week from the assembly? Could I claim to give my full support to that institution into which I have been called when I fail to attend the appointments? It is folly to make sure a claim, and yet a great many do.
Many young men have answered the call of the government to enter the armed forces. They are a called-out group; called from civilian life to military life. Do these called-out have any obligations to the forces into which they are called? We know they do. They are compelled to conform to every command alike. The church is called-out on the same principle. Every member is a soldier of the cross, each having the same duties as to attendance and worship.
2. Food is essential to our physical bodies. The same is true with our spiritual being. It must be fed the good things of the word of God that it might grow. I must digest all the spiritual food possible to grow properly (I Pet. 2:2). This food can be had at every service of the church. When I miss a service, I deprive myself of the spiritual food that is so vital to my spiritual growth.
Some say, “I can get that food at home by reading my Bible and praying and singing God’s praises.” That is true to a great extent. But how many do it? Where is the man who fails to attend Sunday evening service who will do that? If he has enough desire for the spiritual food to read his Bible and worship otherwise, he would have enough care to attend the Sunday evening service as well as all others. It is not a matter of what we are permitted to do in this respect, but what do we do? If a Christian really desires the spiritual food for his soul, he will attend every service of the church.
3. The Lord keeps a complete and perfect record of all my works. That record has my failures as well as my good works. When I appear before the judgment seat of the Lord, that record will face me. Could I claim to have been faithful over that which has been given me if I fail to attend the services of the church? Could I say: “Lord, I have kept the faith”? I am certain I could not.
If you were confronted with a record of your attendance for the past year, you may be astonished at the number of times you were absent from services. Yet a more accurate record will face you in the judgment. It behooves us then to take care that we keep the record as clean as possible for the judgment. Our excuses there will be of no avail. I ought to attend every service because God keeps a perfect record, and I will be judged according to all that I have done in the body, whether it be good or bad (2 Cor. 5:10).
4. We ought to attend every service because we need a closer association with other Christians. How can we be of the same mind when there is no fellowship between us? The encouragement received at at mid-week service is worth more than the association of a thousand men and women of the world. How can we love each other as we are taught to do in the Bible unless we are together more?
The idea that the less we are together the more we love each other is not true. Paul taught that evil companionship will destroy good intentions. The opposite of that would be good companionship will build character and reputation. Those who are weak will grow stronger in the fellowship of strong characters. We ought to attend every service of the church because there will be found the best people on earth.
5. When I attend every service of the church it helps me to overcome temptations. Sin enters by yielding to temptation. To defy sin we must resist the temptations that come to us daily. These temptations are the weapons in the hands of the devil to destroy us. There are enough temptations that come to us without inventing more. By being absent from any service we expose ourselves to the temptations of the devil to add more sin to that which we are already committing. It is easier for us to neglect other duties to God.
A failure to attend any service when we are able to do so is yielding to a temptation of the devil. If we resist that temptation all others become weaker and weaker. Just remember, when you neglect to attend a service you are playing right into the hands of Satan himself.
6. Another personal reason for attending all of the services of the church is that I do not miss work, school or play unless I absolutely can not help it. Most men go to work six days every week. They do not think of missing even one day. Is a man’s daily work more important than the Lord’s work? Should I put the temporal things of life above the spiritual things that are eternal?
The average man puts in about 40 hours each week working. Few congregations have more than four services during the week, lasting about one hour each. It takes not more than 8 hours, counting the time going and coming, to attend every service scheduled in the average congregation. Is that too much time to give to our spiritual development? Consider this seriously. One can not be considered very faithful to the Lord who will put the material things above worship.
We have considered thus far only those things that are personal, or that involve our own person, for attending every service of the church. If there were no other reasons, these are sufficient. But let us turn to others.
Reasons For Attending All Services And My Obligations To Others
Not only are there personal reasons”Why I should attend all services of the church, but I owe certain obligations to my brethren and others that compel me to be faithful in attendance.
1. I have a duty to the congregation where I am a member. This duty respects others as well as the Lord. I owe to my fellow man the encouragement and help that I expect from him. There is a command of Christ found in his Sermon on the Mount that is affected when we fail in this duty. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt. 7:12). This is often called the “Golden Rule” of the Bible. How can I follow this instruction of my Lord when I shirk my duty to help my fellow man by failing to attend the scheduled services of the church? The answer is evident: it can not be done. We expect the preacher, the elders and deacons to be present at every service, and they should be – must be – but do not they expect each of us to be just as faithful in attendance? If each member followed the “Golden Rule” as Christ laid down, we would have no problem such as absenteeism.
Another thing. We have many duties to be done in these services. Certain obligations rest upon each member of the church, no matter how small he may be, and when one is absent from his duty the burden becomes heavier on someone else. When one so neglects his duty and places a greater burden on his brother, he is in direct disobedience to the rule Christ gave. As we want others to take their part of the obligations in the public worship, we ought to be sure that our duty is not neglected by our absence. This is a vital issue.
2. By every act of my life I am influencing someone to serve either God or the devil. No one lives without leaving some trace of his having been here. All Christians (some of them so called) are either glorifying God or disgracing him before others. Christ said in the same sermon mentioned above: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). By failure to attend every service when it is possible to do so, am I letting my light shine as to glorify God? Is it possible to glorify God with an influence that breeds neglect? I do not believe any would affirm this, yet they apparently think so, for they practice this very thing. We ought to attend every service of the church, and by so doing we glorify God before men in our conduct. Our influence is a mighty thing. It reaches where we can not go. Generations to follow may be influenced by the very things you do now. Your influence will reach great grand-children you may never see. What a terrible thought! Many may be lost because I was not faithful to my duty to God and my fellow man.
3. Would you tell your brother in Christ that he is pleasing to God when he has no interest in the mid-week service, or in Sunday evening service? Could you conscientiously encourage, a young Christian to stay away from the Sunday morning Bible study, the Sunday evening service, or the midweek service? Could you tell the weak church member that he doesn’t need such teaching and encouragement as is given in these services? You would answer these questions with a big “no.” Then if one would not say these things, why will he act them? One’s actions speak as loud as his words; sometimes louder. The life that one lives teaches as much as his tongue.
To the Romans Paul wrote: “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?” (Rom. 2:21) Are you guilty of doing the very thing that you would tell others not to do? You could not claim to be faithful in your Christian duty and so do. Therefore, in order to teach others to do the right thing, I must attend every service of the church.
Every father and mother has a responsibility that is most important. The children must be taught the way of the Lord. Children untaught in Christianity are to be pitied above all others. Now could I as a faithful Christian father bring up my children to be in the Way of the Lord when I do not set the example before them? Could children really believe in Christianity when the parents care so little that they don’t attend the scheduled services of the church? These questions invoke serious thought on the part of every father and mother.
If there is one on earth in whom we ought to be interested it is our children. We brought them into the world, and it is our solemn duty to care for them in every way. The spiritual being of our children is by far the most important. Thousands of parents come to preachers, weeping that their children have grown up and now have no interest in the church. Some weep and grieve away their lives because their children are lost forever to the sin of the world. What is the matter? The right example was not set before them in earlier days.
Paul said, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right” (Eph. 6:1). Then in verse 4 he says: “And, ye, fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Can this possibly be done without setting before them the right example? Absolutely not. I must attend every service of the church so that I can properly influence my children to obey the way of the Lord. These are obligations we owe to our children.
5. We also have a responsibility to the preachers, teachers, elders and deacons. We expect them to be present at every service, and would disown them if they didn’t. You would say: “A preacher, teacher, elder or deacon who will not attend all the services is not qualified for his position; he is not interested in the Lord’s work.” How many times has this been an objection to someone being appointed to the eldership or deaconship? It is certainly right to object in such cases, but where does the Scripture say that a preacher or elder must attend every service of the church, but others do not have to attend every service? Just what Bible principle would apply here? God requires exactly the same thing of you in attending all services of the church that he does of preachers, teachers, elders and deacons.
Then, too, you owe an obligation to preachers, teachers, elders and deacons to work with them to the building up of the church in your locality. Every work of the church is made to include you, and if you fail in this duty you impose upon these men. Even men of the world frown upon such conduct. If one does not intend to perform his work in the church, please tell me why he ever obeyed the gospel? The Lord did not add anyone to the church just as an ornament or special guest, but every one has a place and duty to perform. Certainly he can not expect to gain heaven while behaving himself in such a manner. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). We all contend that it is the will of God for preachers, teachers, elders and deacons to attend all services of the church, and if one must do the will of God to enter heaven, we conclude that each one of us must do just as we expect the elders, preachers, teachers and deacons to do in doing the will of God. We owe these men and the church our presence at every service.
6. We are in debt to our brethren and fellow man to do good at all times. For one to fail to do that which is good, when he knows what is good, is to rob others and God of the virtues he has. I believe without a doubt every reader will admit that all men ought to prove what is good and do it. The opposite of good is evil. All things are either good and right, or else wrong and evil. If it is wrong for you to attend every service of the church, it is wrong for all Christians to attend. But if it is right and good for others to attend, it is right and good for you and me to attend every service. James says it in this way: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17). Then if you know it is good to attend all services, and fail to do so unless health prevents, it is sin; and sin when it is finished brings death.
These are obligations we each owe to our brethren in the Lord, to our children and to others with whom we come in contact. No one can fail to attend every service of the church where he lives and be faithful in these requirements.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 23, pp. 707-709
December 3, 1987