Imagine showing up for church in the morning and the pastor just not being there. What would happen? What would people say? Now imagine if he did that anytime he wanted and gave no real reason except that he just couldn’t come, or that he was tired, or that something came up and he needed to go out of town. I wonder how long this could take place in the life of the local church before congregants would begin to become upset, angry, frustrated, or even a little perturbed. Well consider this, the qualifications and requirements for the pastor are just a listing of true qualifications of every believer among the church of Jesus Christ. Paul just listed them in the New Testament so that those who are called to the pastorate understand what is required of every Christian. Sadly, many churches (s0-called) would bring a pastor under discipline if he did something like this even once.
Interestingly enough, Hebrews chapter 10 teaches that one of the primary litmus tests of Christian faith and dedication is gathering together with the Saints of Jesus Christ. I’m going to write a little bit more in the weeks to come on this topic, for the sake of encouraging Christians to understand that they are not to attend the gathering of the saints, that we call church service, under compulsion; but are to be there out of the absolute desire of the core of their soul. After all, did Jesus not raise our lives with him? When a Christian fails to attend the local assembly the entire body suffers, the Christian who is not in attendance find themselves waning in their faith, becoming more fleshly, lacking the faith and the grace of God to face life. Those who regularly skip out on congregating with the people of God ultimately fall prey to fleshly lusts and entertainment in the name of need and entitlement.
Now back to the idea of what would take place in the hearts and minds of the local church if I, the pastor of the flock, worked and operated as many who claim to be in Christ do every single week. I mean why could not I have a day of rest with my family vacationing because of my fatigue and pain and life’s frailties. After all should not my personal needs come before the church of Jesus Christ? Should I not model for my children that it is okay to have no concern for the people of God? Isn’t it okay for my neighbor to see me barbecuing on the Lord’s day in an attempt to show them that Christians are not bound to some legalistic ideal? Doesn’t the Lord want me to sleep in after I’ve been up nearly all night due to an illness, or just insomnia? Don’t I just deserve a day? Of all people, Christians understand such things and should be willing to just let them go without any consequence, without any questions, without any frustrations on their part. Aren’t there many men in the church who can just stand up and preach? Aren’t there those amongst the body who labor every day all week for the sake of the joy of the Saints? Even in a pinch, can’t someone just stand up and read the Bible for an hour?
Of course this is written to prove a point. First, that any pastor who would have such a heart should resign from the ministry and never speak of it again. And if this is true for a pastor, it should be true for you. Second, when the Saints do not desire to assemble together, it is a clear indicator that something desperately is missing from their understanding of the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit. They are not comprehending with the Saints the depth and the breadth and the height and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, nor how his grace is sufficient to sustain us and bring us together for mutual benefit and mutual strength and service. Third, Christians who regularly just skip out on meeting with the children of God can lose their joy, can lose their spiritual eyes, and are just a hair away from a seared conscience. This is why Scripture teaches that failing to meet together is the first ring in the ladder of apostasy and that anyone who considers themselves not important to the body at large, has become so nearsighted and myopic and selfish that they bring discipline from the body on themselves by the command of God. Failing to heed these warnings by one who professes to walk in the light, leaves no more sacrifice for their sin and nothing left but judgment.
So, our hearts should leap with joy, our faith should rise above our fatigue, and our purpose in life should be that we work all week so that all that we do and all that we gain and all that we have be given away for the sake of our siblings who have been purchased by the blood of our Savior, Jesus the Christ. While there are certainly opportunities to remain isolated from the gathering of the saints, they are extreme and are not normative and one’s own heart should be checked each time this temptation arises. Beloved you are more than just a seat-filler, you are a necessary and loved part of the body of Jesus Christ and your absence is more detrimental to you and to the church than if the pastor just failed to show up.
For His Glory by His Grace,
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19-25 ESV)