And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
These are hard times to be a follower of Christ. The pull of the world is stronger than it has ever been and our culture is crumbling around us. Yet, for the most part, the church has gone on with a “business as usual” approach to answering these challenges.
I have heard this scripture from Hebrews as a command for Christians to “go to church”. When we don’t go to church we are “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”
I disagree. I think our modern incarnation of church actually is, many times, in opposition to the exhortation of this scripture.
Think about it. We corral the family (usually with considerable stress), haul them off to church, then separate everyone to individual groups. We sit in a seat, listen to some music, listen to a sermon, bow our heads during prayer, and go home. Maybe a slight oversimplification, but not much.
My life can be falling apart and nobody has to know. My marriage can be failing, I can be addicted to porn, my kids messed up, and I carry that burden alone. How is that “assembling together to stir up love and good works?”
So what’s our goal? Is it to have the attendance log filled up, or is it to have followers of Christ living in an intimate community where they can receive the love, encouragement, accountability and help they need to overcome the world? What’s a pastor’s job? Is it to lead a Fortune 500 level organization, or shepherd the people of God into a life full of grace and communion with their Savior?
The modern, western version of church often works against the intimate community of love to which the author of Hebrews is referring. We attend, we don’t connect. We listen, we don’t share. We smile and nod, we don’t make ourselves vulnerable. For all our programs and buildings, we are less connected and less discipled than ever.
And God’s people suffer for it.
It’s time we realize church is not something we attend, it’s who we are. Every time and every place we gather and encourage one another is a church meeting. It’s time to recognize that sitting in that service does not take the place of true community, where believers love, encourage, and hold each other accountable. Until we do, the church will continue to be powerless against the onslaught of the world into our lives.
No wonder we are short on “love and good works.”