The example of Jesus includes participating in a weekly gathering
And he [Jesus]came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.Luke 4:16
Do you know someone who identifies as a Christian but does not affiliate with a local assembly? The odds are good that you do. In fact, you may be that person.
The folks that keep track of these things for a living inform us that church attendance is trending downward. We know better than to argue the point. In the church I’m a part of, the accuracy of this observation is painfully obvious. We have way more empty chairs than we used to.
Should we blame it on COVID? Two years ago, maybe, but now? In reality, this troubling trend started long before COVID.
Let’s cut to the chase.
If you are not participating in a local assembly (and you have the capacity to do so), you’re not following Jesus. To follow Jesus is to follow his word and His personal example. Jesus, the Son of God, had a lifelong weekly commitment to a local congregation.
But before we go any further, a few clarifications are in order:
1. We’re not saying you’re not a Christian if you don’t attend church. But we are saying those who opt out of participating in a local church are not faitthfully following both the teaching and personal example of Jesus Christ. You’re missing a really important piece.
2. We’re not saying the Saturday synagogue service that Jesus participated in is the same as a New Testament church service. This was before the Passion. Jesus was upholding a Jewish custom of gathering on the Sabbath (Saturday) to read Scripture and just be together, a custom that began during the exile years. But after the resurrection of Christ – on a Sunday – His followers have been meeting on Sunday, the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:2) ever since.
3. We’re not saying it’s easy. Church life has its ups and downs. Church folks are born again (in most cases) but that doesn’t mean they are yet everything they should be. It can be messy. But there’s value even in the mess.
Gathering with other worshipers was part of the weekly rhythm of the life of Jesus before his death, resurrection, and ascension. In an age of unprecedented isolation and loneliness, we would do well to dwell on the fact that our Savior practiced community on the regular.
Because what’s good for the Shepherd is also good for the sheep.
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.