There are those Sundays when you wake up with the resurrection on your mind. These are the days that you know – you know – that Jesus is alive, and because He lives, everything is different. You breathe in the truth of His life and the celebration boils inside you. You are compelled to sing – to shout – with the people of God. And you walk into a worship service with the song already in your soul only needing someone to give it words.
There are those Sundays.
And then there are the other ones. The ones where the sermon didn’t come easily that week. The ones when you wonder if anyone is really listening. The days when you know that you’ll have move conversations about problems than about the Lord. Even for church leaders, there are those Sundays like this.
These are the days, both for the church leader and the church member alike, when you must absolutely, positively, go to church. That’s because when we do the very simple act of just show up, to not take a Sunday off, we are recognizing some key truths about God, ourselves, and the church herself. And these are the deeper reasons, the ones that go beyond the fact that you have a good preacher or you like the music or all your friends will be there – these are the deeper reasons why you must take heed the words of the writer of Hebrews:
And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
1. You are forgetful
Over and over again in Scripture, you find God telling His people to “remember.” Remember the Sabbath. Remember how you provoked God in the wilderness. Remember, I am with you always. These are commands – not suggestions – and they come because we are by nature forgetful people.
But God is kind to us, and He knows even better than we do how forgetful we are of who He is and what He has done. CS Lewis knew this and once remarked, “People need to be reminded more than instructed.” More times than not when we come to Scripture or gather together with the saints, we aren’t there to learn; we are there to remember. There is, after all, nothing new under the sun, but just because it’s not new doesn’t mean it’s at the top of our minds. So regardless of how you feel this weekend, if you go to church anyway, you are recognizing your own weakness and tendency to forget and taking active measures against it.
2. To display God’s character
The church is so much more than a casual gathering; it’s a stage on which the manifold wisdom of God is on display:
This grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of the Messiah, and to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. This is so God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens. (Ephesians 3:8-10)
When the church gathers together, God is showing off His great wisdom in the gospel. Here, through the gospel, we along with all the rulers and authorities in the heavens bear witness to a wise God who can bring together people with every reason in the world to be divided, yet loving and serving and giving together for His kingdom. When we choose to absolutely, positively make sure we are at church, we are recognizing the cosmic nature of what happens in our midst.
3. The church needs you
The New Testament calls the church a body – the body of Christ. That metaphor is couched in the context of helping us understand that just as every part of the body is useful and essential, so we should make sure not to over-honor the more visible parts of the church.
One of the things we recognize about the nature of the church through our attendance is that we are actually a vital part of this living, breathing body. And as such, the church needs us. Of course, this assumes that we are attending church not primarily as a consumer but as a contributor. But given that, it’s paradigm shifting for us to consider that the reason we must absolutely be at church is not only because we need the church… but because the church needs us.
Leader, Sunday is coming. This week and every week. Make the choice to absolutely, positively be at church. Be there mentally and emotionally and not just physically. And do it because you know you’re forgetful, to display God’s character, and because the church needs you.
Michael Kelley is the Director of Discipleship at Lifeway, and author of Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life