One of the most foundational habits since the beginning of the church has been the weekly gathering for corporate worship. Christians have been gathering for worship on Sundays for 2000 years.
This is a habit that many Christians take for granted. Of course, you gather with the church on Sundays. Some of you grew up going to morning worship, then Sunday school, then Sunday night church, and Wednesday night prayer or study.
Regular and frequent gathering was the norm. That’s not to say we need to do everything that was done in the past. But I think we do underestimate the power of simply being a committed member of a local church where you show up week in and week out to serve, love, pray, and grow old with friends.
This season has challenged corporate gatherings more than any of us have experienced in our lifetime. I want to commend and applaud the ways many of you have stayed connected, watched online, joined zoom calls. You stayed committed to gathering and worshipping with your church. I want to be clear that I support of all of you who are choosing to stay home and exercise caution. I’m glad you have stayed connected how you can.
But well before the pandemic, it is well known that church attendance has been in decline. About 50% of people in America do not actively attend any church.
Out of that 50% who do attend church actively, many are attending less and less actively. Pastor Carey Nieuwhof wrote a recent blog post saying that people who used to attend every Sunday are now attending 3 out of 4. This is before the pandemic. People who were 3 out of 4 are now twice a month. Instead of attending 45-50 Sundays a year, people are attending 20-30 Sundays a year. That’s significant. The less we gather together, the less we are connected, the less we are shaped by worship and by the word.
Why are normally committed churchgoers attending less often? Nieuwhof gives a number of reasons:
-Greater affluence. People can afford to travel, do fun activities on the weekend, do house projects, put their kids in activities. Afford to do stuff.
–Higher Focus on Kids Activities– Travel sports and competitions on the weekend keep some families out of church more often.
-More Travel- People are traveling for leisure and recreation more. Weekend getaways.
-No cultural expectation (guilt)
-Self-directed spirituality– I’ll do a little meditation, I’ll watch a little Francis Chan, and I’ll attend church here and there. There’s less commitment to one place.
–Online options– This is before the pandemic. There are wonderful benefits to tech. We’re so glad many people who can’t attend are able to join in online. Many people are discovering the wonderful church we have because they are able to preview it online first. But there is a danger that when the pandemic is over, we actually will gather together less because we might say, “Eh, I’ll just catch the service online later” You can catch the service, but you can’t catch the gathering with God’s people later. That makes a significant difference.
Scripture encourages to gather with God’s people.
Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The writer of Hebrews says do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing. Now, the early church gathered primarily in homes for mutual encouragement. So this command to keep gathering is probably directly related to receiving that type of encouragement. So a contemporary application might be to encourage you to keep gathering together with believers in small groups for encouragement. But in addition to the small group encouragement, the church has been gathering for corporate worship on Sundays for fellowship, for prayer, scripture reading, and preaching for centuries.
The Habit I’m asking you to recommit to, in whatever way you can is Regular Worship. Why should you make weekly worship a habit?
We honor Jesus’ resurrection: The Lord’s Day.
Let me remind you. We gather on Sundays for a reason. Not because it’s the weekend and you finally have some time off. We gather because it’s a celebration! The Jews held their worship on Saturday, the Seventh day, the Sabbath that God had commanded the people to observe. But Jesus was killed on a Friday, rested in the Tomb on Saturday the Sabbath, and rose again on Sunday, the first day of the week. So Christians began to worship on Sundays to honor Jesus’ resurrection.
1 Peter 2:9-10 “9 But you are a chosen people,a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
We have been made God’s special people so that we can declare his praises. The one who called us out of the darkness. The one who died for us while we were still his enemies. The one who extended us mercy when we didn’t deserve it. The one who died on our behalf but rose again on the first day of the week for our redemption.
We come to honor him and to declare his praise. So Sundays we worship and express our thanksgiving to God for our salvation and the hope of resurrected life. It is His day, the Lord’s Day.
We are called to gather for the sake of others.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,not giving up meeting together”
Not giving up meeting together. This word is a strong word in the Greek.
Not abandoning. Not deserting each other.
This is the same word Jesus used on the cross when he said
“My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”
To not neglect the common meeting of the church was to abandon the community. To desert and forsake your brothers and sisters. That’s how seriously the church took its gatherings.
But the writer of Hebrews says, don’t neglect meeting together as some are in the habit doing. Even if others are doing it around you, even if it’s becoming normal to attend worship here and there, stand firm. In fact, encourage and gather all the more as you see the Day approaching. As you see the End draw near. The truth is. We need each other. The church needs you and you need the church. So don’t abandon your post. Don’t abandon your brothers and sisters in the greatest battle and cause in the whole universe. We need you.
We build up Christ’s church.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on”
In the Greek, one another actually comes right after the word consider. So that changes slightly how you might read it.
Consider each other. Consider, think about, ponder your brothers and sisters, their lives, their hardships, their need for encouragement and friendship. Consider How you can provoke, stir each other up towards love and good deeds. Toward a life of Christ likeness.
I do believe our church is good at considering each one’s needs and looking out for each other.
Do not neglecting meeting together, but encourage each other.
Gathering for worship is first a God-centered motivation, then it’s a other’s centered motivation. People drive home from worship and they might say, eh I wasn’t sure I liked worship today. Fine, did you consider it wasn’t about you?
Instead of asking, did I like it, we should ask:
Did I honor the Lord and did I build others up? Did I serve someone? Did I encourage anybody? Did I listen for God to speak to me? Did I honor his word? Did I worship from my heart? Did I celebrate the resurrection? Did I pray for others? Did I love God and did I love his people?
If we come to worship to honor God and build up his church, our own spiritual needs will be met along the way. We come to encourage others and to use our spiritual gifts to build up the body. We gather to serve others with the gifts, talents, and wisdom God has given us.
When you gather in a church that desires to sing from their hearts to honor the Lord, when you gather with a church that is intentional in connecting, loving, and encouraging others, you will be filled up spiritually. And God’s spirit will minister to you as we sing and make music together. That’s how Christ’s body gets built up week after week.
So why should you make a worship a regular habit?
- We honor Jesus’ resurrection: the Lord’s Day.
- We are called to gather for the sake of others.
- The church is the greatest cause in the universe. Come assemble with the team.
- We build up Christ’s church.
How regular should we be in this habit?
Attending one Sunday may not feel significant, but over time, things compound.
Let’s think about this in terms of numbers of 3 different people.
A: 2/month average: Attends church relatively frequently. Most Sundays when they are not busy. Accounts for travel and vacation, summer getaways, and some Sundays just to sleep in:
26 Sundays/year for 60 years = 1,560 Sundays
B: 3/month average
Only miss once/month. Considered quite regular.
36 Sundays/year for 60 years = 2,160 Sundays
720 more Sunday than person A.
That’s over 14 year’s worth of Sunday gatherings!
14 more years of gatherings, sermons, encouraging and serving others.
C: 3.5/month average: 46 Sundays/year for 60 years= 2,760 Sundays
This is the person who goes most every Sunday. 6 Sundays missed in a year. Vacation, family trips. This is your very committed churchgoer.
Some years you might have less for family or business reasons. Some years maybe more. But average it out to 46.
Person C has gathered for worship 1,360 more times than person A and 700 more times than person B.
This person has had 27 more years worth of worship than person A. and about 14 more years worth of worship than person B.
27 more years of encouraging, serving, being discipled, growing, loving others.
They only attended church on average 1.5 times more than person A, but over a lifetime, they accumulated 27 more years worth of gatherings.
Holy Habits are but small sustainable habits that make a difference over the long haul.
If a church desires to be intentionally connected, growing in Christ, reaching out to others, which type of attendance is going to be most conducive to serving Christ in a community over the long haul?
If you had person C type attendance, oh the richness of community, your growth in Christ, your ability to reach others, all would be exponentially better over time.
We don’t know what this year will hold, how the pandemic will shake out, but I encourage you to commit to gathering for worship in whatever way you safely can. If it can’t be in-person, find those relationships and small groups or zoom where you can be encouraged.
Consider tracking how many Sundays you attend in a given year. Strive to make it a habit to gather as often as you can, not just for your self, but to honor the Lord’s day, to show up for others, and to build up Christ’s body.
“the most significant and life-transforming event that happens every week is the quiet, consistent act of Christians worshiping the living God. It is not mentioned in the headlines of the daily newspaper, but it is the most crucial event in the life of any town or city. For in a quiet, unobtrusive way, God is bringing about a revolution.- Gordon Smith
Will you join in?