Don’t Give Up Meeting Together
The writer of Hebrews gave a very practical instruction in Hebrews 10:24-25:
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.
Don’t give up meeting together. Translation?
Keep going to church.
Which when you say it like that, sounds pretty dumb, right? Of course we know that we should keep going to church. But if it’s it that simple, then why give the instruction? In other words, what might keep us from meeting together?
For the Hebrews, it was persecution. This letter was written to a group of persecuted Christians who, based on what we read in the letter, were teetering on the edge of going back to their former way of life. That’s why you find such a strong emphasis on perseverance—it’s because those who persevere to the end show their faith to be true and authentic. For these Christians, then, one of the ways (and maybe even the primary one) that they demonstrated their lasting commitment to faith in Jesus was the fact that they were willing to keep showing up.
This was no small thing for them.
Showing up and meeting together marked them as a community of believers, and when they were marked they were targeted. Property was seized; prison terms were handed out; jobs were lost and livelihoods were in jeopardy. But on they came.
I, however, don’t live in a situation like that. Is there then any value in giving a command like this to a society where there are no restrictions on going to church and meeting with other Christians? Of course, the answer is yes, but we get to that answer by asking a similar question to the one we asked of the Hebrews: In an affluent and relatively free society, safe from persecution based on religious preference, what might keep us from continuing to show up?
Many things I suppose, but at least these three:
I know, I know—the church is just around the corner, right? Just down the road? At worst, on the other side of town? But despite the proximity and availability of local congregations, the call to meet together challenges our sense of convenience.
We live in a culture that’s microwaved; we want what we want, when we want it, and what we want is NOW. Meeting together, though, is a long range strategy interjected into a short term society. Relationships of trust and mutual sharing don’t automatically happen; they develop over time. A gospel-centered worldview isn’t formed overnight, but through the process of hearing the same thing over and over again. The ability to recall and apply Scripture to specific life situations doesn’t happen automatically but slowly over the course of listening to others do the same.
All of these things involve time, and therefore all are inconvenient. This fact all by itself might make us give up the long road of meeting together and instead just look for the DVR’d version of church so we can fast forward to the high points.
The decision to continue meeting together isn’t just made on Sunday morning; it’s made well in advance of that. It means, for example, that a student must get their homework done and not relegate it for Sunday mornings. It means that work hours and availability should be considered when thinking through a potential job. It even means that simple things like going to bed on Saturday night come into play.
In and of themselves, these seem like simple and easy decisions, but if we prioritize meeting together, then that priority drives itself down into these everyday choices we make.
Meeting together—showing up at church—is (and should be) uncomfortable. That’s because truly meeting together involves a level of self-disclosure that hurts, and sometimes it hurts a lot.
That’s the difference between “meeting together” and “meeting together.” In the latter, we aren’t spectators; instead, we are active participants, longing for not just a connection with others but the kind of connection that will truly help us follow Jesus. And because that kind of connection is only inspired by walking the difficult road of confession and transparency, many of us aren’t ready.
It’s just easier to stay home.
Because it is, we must emphasize in both implicit and explicit ways that we are a part of a family of faith that is willing to swing upstream against convenience and comfort. How can we do this? I’d offer just a few very practical suggestions:
1. Be on time.
It seems that church is one of the few appointments during the week when we treat punctuality as optional. We straggle in and out with far less angst than we would if we were late to school or a meeting at work. When we, as families, not only make going to church a priority but make sure we are there on time, we emphasize the importance of what we’re doing.
2. Preach and teach in progression.
Here is one more argument for the practice of expository preaching. When we preach verse by verse through a book of the Bible, we are assuming that people will follow the progression. It’s another subtle way we can emphasize that occasional attendance is not the better way; we miss something every time we are gone.
3. Practice self-pastoring.
One of the simplest ways we embrace the exhortation to not give up meeting together is to self-discipline and pastor. You, like me, know who you generally see at church. If we start paying attention, we will also begin to know who we once saw, but no longer do. In an age when we are connected in so many ways, it’s not difficult to simply reach out and tell someone we have missed them. This isn’t just something that should be left for church leadership; it’s a sacred duty every church member can take on themselves for the sake of the body of Christ.
In the end, though, the question, as the writer of Hebrews put it, is worth the weight of consideration. Meeting together cannot only be one of the things we “also” do during the week. It instead should be thought of in the context that the writer of Hebrews puts it in: “All the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
When that day comes, what will be our response? In what state will we be found? By God’s grace, may it be as faithful people who have fought the sometimes uphill cultural battle of doing that which is at times inconvenient, uncomfortable, and therefore prioritized.