Have you ever found Sunday the most difficult morning to get out of bed? As a family, we try to make Saturday nights low key and laid back so we can prepare for the next day. But somehow, even if everyone goes to bed early and sleeps well, the Sunday wake up call is hard to get up for. And in the midst of school, work, sports, busy schedules from all sides, the temptation to sleep in and miss church is a struggle.
“I’ll listen to a sermon podcast,” we say, “I’ll make it next week.”
But the truth is there will always be a reason or an excuse to miss fellowship with God’s people. And when we make a habit of it, we are missing out in several ways.
Full disclaimer: I am not just saying this as a pastor's wife.
The truth is the church is important not just because of what we learn from God's Word but because of the interactions we have with other believers. Part of what we gain by going to church is encouragement from other people. We also have the opportunity to be a blessing to others that would not have happened if we had stayed in our homes and listened to sermons online.
In all honesty there have been some Sundays where I have not felt like getting out of bed and going to church. I didn't force myself to church because I am a pastor's wife. I went because I realized I needed to go, maybe even more so on the days I didn't feel like it. We have six days a week that bombard us with the things of the world. Even if we spend time everyday in the Bible, in prayer, and utilizing resources online in the form of podcasts, sermons, etc, there is no substitute for gathering together with like-minded believers and building one another up in Christ.
When I hear people say they don't need a local church because they listen to ‘XYZ pastor,’ I'm sad for them and what they are missing out on by not having a regular group of people they can worship with. They often make the argument that they can worship anywhere and they choose to worship in their own homes, on their own terms. And while there is a time for us to worship in solitude, it should not be the norm if we wish to truly grow spiritually and seek to help others.
There is a time and a place for the benefits technology can give us. Those that physically are not able to leave their homes and participate in a local church are able to listen to podcasts and sermons and grow spiritually through them. But no matter how great the preacher or how wonderful the message, we should not allow these online moments to be our only interaction with fellow believers.
First Corinthians speaks of the church being like a body (I Corinthians 12:12-31). Each member has a specific talent and ability that cannot fully be used in isolation. The writer of the book of Hebrews instructs us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25). Paul mentions often in his epistles that we are to be building each other up (I Thessalonians 5:14), forgiving others (Colossians 3:13), rejoicing with and encouraging those around us (Ephesians 4:15-16; Colossians 3:13).
The idea that we can get everything we need spiritually from an online sermon is selfish. We are promoting the convenience of staying home instead of getting out, going to church, and seeing how we can minister to those around us.
We should also remember that the Christian life is not meant to be a solitary endeavor. From Christ’s own example we see the importance of discipling others and, starting from the early church, we see the importance of gathering together. Think of the joy and unity we see in the church in Acts. For them gathering together was making a statement of who they were identifying with. In some cases it would have even been dangerous to be associated with Christians. But they craved the times together when they could leave worldly influences and come together in the bond of Christ. The same is true of the persecuted church throughout the world today. There are some who are willing to risk imprisonment, torture, or death because of the joy that comes from being with other Christians and worshipping our Lord.
Remember that we are in a spiritual battle. Satan must be delighted when we become Our Own Worst Enemy and choose to fight individually instead of coming together and fighting with other Christians. I've said jokingly to some that Satan must work overtime on Sunday mornings because that is the day the children want to sleep in, the day I am most tired, and the day 100 things seem to happen to keep me from fellowshipping with other believers.
God wants us to grow closer to him and part of this is done by rubbing shoulders with other believers who can help us, encourage us, and who we can turn around and invest ourselves in. There is a true beauty and joy that can only be experienced when we come together, gathering in unity to worship our Lord.
Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash