The light flickers on in the pastor’s office. He sets His belongings on his desk and slowly works his way through the church building, unlocking doors and turning on lights. “I’ve got to get some of the good stuff next time,” he tells himself as he fills the carafe with freshly brewed coffee from a can.
After all the Sunday School rooms are inspected, he enters the sanctuary. The early morning sun pushes through the textured, stained-glass window, illuminating the room in a rainbow of color. At the front of small auditorium hangs a wooden cross as a reminder of the risen Christ. The Pastor, eyes landing on the cross, smiles briefly. He will preach Christ this morning–as he always does.
In a few hours, members young and old, black and white, rich and poor, male and female, single and wed, will join in worship of the Almighty God in this small, unassuming building. Those on the mountain tops of life will join in song, lifting their voices together in hymns of adoration, with those in the valleys (Eph. 5:19). They will give tithes and offerings joyfully to the local work (2 Cor. 9:7). They will pray together (Acts 2:42). They will sit under the preaching and teaching of elders who have been charged with keeping watch over their souls (Heb. 13:17). They will partake of the Lord’s Table–remembering Jesus’ sacrifice and perfect substitutionary death on their behalf (1 Cor. 11:20-26). They will serve each other (1 Pt. 4:10) and work toward the furthering of the Gospel in their local mission field and the mission field abroad (Matt. 24:14). They will hold each other accountable to walk in holiness (Gal. 6:1-2). They are more than a club; they are a family under the headship of the risen Savior (Eph. 5:23).
A Christ-centered local body is a delightful foretaste of heaven; a grand opportunity to set self aside and worship the King of Kings with other Christians. Yet, many who profess to be Christians will miss this glorious weekly opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate reasons for missing the gathering of the local body. I think of the many illnesses that circulate each year, the shut-ins who desire to make it to church, but simply cannot due to being stuck in home-bound, “ox in the ditch” situations (Luke 14:5), and many other sovereignly organized reasons. However, many of the most common reasons professing Christians miss church fall into one of three categories: the down, the defiant, or the drowsy.
I once had dinner with an ex-Christian woman and her atheist boyfriend who had spent many years in the church as a small child. The severing moment came when her father, who was also the pastor of their church, left this woman and her mother for his secretary. “He left with her and the church just left me and my mom. It’s like they didn’t know what to do, so they just ignored us. In one night, I lost my dad, my pastor, and my church family. It was difficult and embarrassing. How could God let that happen? I was just a little girl,” she said through tears.
My heart broke for this woman. Yes, I understand the theological implications of her rejecting Christ. Yes, I know that everyone is accountable to Jesus. But I also understand that it would have been better that a millstone be tied around that man’s neck and he be cast into the sea, than left to offend his little daughter (Matt 18:6).
While many exaggerate their hurts (leaving the church for things they wouldn’t dream leaving a job, hobby, or club over) there is no shortage of people who have been truly hurt by careless Christians and false converts that attend services on a weekly basis. I am speaking now to the genuine believer who has found themselves adrift after some great hurt. Dear injured one, can I beg you to look to Christ! Your ills are not with the church, but sinful men. If you are a believer you do not have the option of saying, “Well, I love Jesus and hate the church.” It was for those very sinful wretches that the Lord of Glory gave Himself over. Have you been betrayed? So has your Lord. Have you been abused? So has your Lord. Have you been maligned, lied about, and looked upon with disgust? So was He! Yet, for many of those persecutors He hung on the tree. Jesus loves the church, organized the church, and grows the church. Can you find forgiveness for those who have injured you as the Lord has forgiven you, a great injurer?
There is still another kind of professor of the Christian faith that makes a regular habit of missing the Lord’s Day services–the defiant. Those that would view themselves as an island with no need for preaching, teaching, accountability, corporate worship, or shepherds. These are individuals who will come up with any excuse to combat the Lord’s command to no forsake the assembly; and oh, do the defiant have excuses.
I regularly have people repeat to me the tired motto, “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian,” to which I reply, “No, but Christians want to go to church.” If this is you, seriously ask yourself this question, “If I am a believer, why do I not DESIRE to go to Church?”
Others believe they have outgrown the church–proving they have little to no knowledge of God’s Word, God’s purposes, the role of the church, and their part in it. Still others, like an evangelical Goldilocks, find problems with every provision and forgo the service for the most minor things. These individuals find the sermons to be boring, the music to be lacking, the chairs too uncomfortable, the auditorium too cold, the parking lot too full, the church too big, the church too small, and on goes the mind-numbing list. Others, perhaps in greater rebellion, will use skipping church as a weapon against the pastor, a spouse, or some other individual in the congregation.
My question again is: why? Why would you want to miss the beauties and benefits of Sunday if you profess to know the Lord? Do you not like the Lord’s people? 1 John 4:20 reminds us that we cannot love God and hate our brothers. Do you find the things of God boring? Friend, they are the most precious things to a believer’s heart. Mr. and Mrs. Defiant, if you are truly believers (a matter I hope you thoroughly examine), it is time to stop with your prideful rebellion. The Lord has made His command, “Do not forsake the assembly of yourselves…” (Heb. 10:25). Now is the time for obedience (John 14:15).
Complacency is a vile thing. As we get busy in life, we tend to marginalize the important spiritual matters. In a world as busy as ours, it is all the more important to stop, rest, and worship. Often, we fall out of the pattern of going to church without even realizing that is has happened. Are you too tired to go to church? Might I suggest making radical changes to your lifestyle that would help you be able to experience worship on the Lord’s Day? This may include a change in sleep patterns, change of hobbies or even jobs, and cutting non-essential activities out (you should not be too tired for church because you stayed up all night in front of the computer or television). You will be glad that you did!
“Well, I just can’t find a good church in my area.” Then move. If there are truly no biblical churches around, the best thing you can do for your spiritual health and that of your family is to find a place that does. Ephesians 5 tells us, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
As a final word to all three types: can I encourage you to stop with the excuses, no matter what they may be, and show yourself to be a child of the King by joining with a local church family this Sunday for worship?
This was a guest post from Blake Laberee. Blake is a husband, father of two, and the lead Pastor of a small Baptist Church in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Pastoral Ministry and was a Youth Pastor for five years. Blake averages one book per week, is an avid outdoorsman, and is a fan of Phillies Baseball.