You've probably heard it a million times by now. We are living in unprecedented and uncertain times.So much of what is being discussed right now is political. I want to be clear: this is not a political post. It's not a left wing or a right wing thing. I'm making a theological statement as a follower of Jesus Christ.
I'm not shying away from politics because I'm afraid of it. Instead, I am refusing to talk much about politics during these times because talking about Christ is way more important. It was more important before these times. It will be more important afterward, too.onemilliontracts.com -- they have bumper stickers and magnets, too.)
Due to the overemphasis on politics, we've allowed everything to become politicized. Even attending church nowadays is a political statement.
Let's all just stop for a second and take a deep breath. Hopefully we can all settle down for a minute so we can remember why attending church is so important for the people of God.
The author of Hebrews stated the importance of remembering to gather together as believers frequently. This becomes more important as the end draws closer and closer. Frankly, it's more important for Christians to assemble together now more than ever simply because we are nearer now to the end than ever before.
Attending church isn't supposed to be primarily a political statement. It's also not some legalistic thing to check off a list. Nor is it simply some unimportant thing that can be neglected or abandoned when times are uncertain or our gathering becomes inconvenient or even dangerous. You do know that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ gather around the world in places where it is illegal, right? Many face persecution and the threat of death every day of their walk with Jesus. There is no vaccine that will protect them from this type of danger.
When I was in Ethiopia, I had the privilege of standing next to the ruins of a previous house of worship that was burned down by an unruly mob. The mob told these faithful followers of Christ that if they came back again, they'd kill them. This mob burned their Bibles. This mob also included members of the local police and government officials. Talk about systemic injustice and persecution.
Yet, these believers gathered again the following week to worship God upon the ashes. It was worth it to them to worship God despite the physical danger to their own lives. Fortunately, a revival swept through their city and many of their persecutors repented and came to saving faith in Christ. Either way, they were willing to count the cost. It could have just as easily been their last gathering this side of eternity.
Jesus never told us following Him would be easy. That's a lie from the hucksters and charlatans who are peddling God's word for their own gain. And don't worry, those same people are still happily accepting contact-free donations online in these uncertain times. For your safety.
I'm not saying that if you are sick you should gather in groups and make everyone else sick, too. I am also not going to pretend I haven't seen that the world has shown several examples of things they think are more important than forsaking assembling in these same times. People are gathering -- on both sides of the political spectrum -- for protests, political rallies, and to celebrate their candidates being elected. Yet, gathering to worship God is more important than all of these things combined. That's not to say politics and protesting injustice are unimportant, just lesser in importance when compared to the most important thing: worshipping our Creator, King, and Savior. The God whose throne is established on a foundation of justice and righteousness (Psalm 97:2).
So, what's the big deal about assembling together as believers? What's the point? Can't we listen to sermons online, pray together via the prayer chain emails and social media groups, and worship God on our own with streaming music services?
We can do those things. But the thing we are missing when we fail to assemble is, well, other believers. Something very significant happens every Sunday morning when believers gather in various local assemblies, scattered across the face of the earth to worship God collectively as the people of God. It is something that cannot be substituted.
When we gather together we don't gather to hear a sermon. Although hearing God's word preached can be a great blessing.
When we gather together we don't gather to be led in songs of worship. Although faithful music leaders can be a great blessing.
When we gather we don't gather to have someone administer over our prayer requests. Although having a strong prayer ministry can be a great blessing.
When we gather we don't gather to give a financial offering to the Lord. Although it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.
When we gather we don't gather to check something off our list. Although growing in spiritual discipline can be a great blessing.
So, what do we gather to do? It's so simple really. You may even think I'm being silly for saying it.
The purpose of our assembling together is to assemble together. This is why it can't be counterfeited. No matter how many technological advances we manufacture, when we aren't together, we aren't together. Right?
There is power in assembling together. There is unity. There is edification. There is accountability. There is a statement to the world that no matter how uncertain our times, we are certain that God is worthy of being worshipped.
I remember speaking with someone who was thinking about leaving their local fellowship because they didn't appreciate some of the order of service and the lack of programming options. It became clear that they had expectations about how these various items -- sermons, music styles, child care options, etc. -- were the most important thing on their mind. I asked them to consider changing their expectations and focus on the importance of gathering together with other faithful believers who were of like mind in desiring to lift up Jesus in their own lives and in the world.
They responded to me with the simple statement, "Are you saying I should lower my expectations?"
Quite the contrary! I am saying you should raise them.
If you want to listen to powerful and eloquent sermons, you can do that any time thanks to modern technology. If you want to sing great worship music, you can have the most talented musicians lead you anytime you want, via those same technological avenues.
But you know what you could never reproduce no matter how much technology you invest in or how many subscriptions you buy? You can never replicate the simple power of the assembling of God's people together each week as a testimony of the grace of God and His worthiness to be worshipped in all seasons of life and in every culture, circumstance, and context.
The author of Hebrews was right. Let's not forsake the assembly. Not now and not ever. Not until the Lord returns to gather us home.
We don't gather as a local church to protest. We don't gather to make a political statement. We gather to show the world that our God reigns and He is worthy of our worship. At least, it's why we should.