A few weeks ago I was rushed to the hospital with chest pains, fever nausea, and shortness of breath, all symptoms of a heart attack. In the emergency room they hooked me up to a monitor and took a blood test two key ways to determine if that was my problem. Later they took me for an x-ray and an ultrasound test and these tests finally determined what my real problem was – an infected gall-bladder.
It's amazing how a key test can reveal where and what your health problem really is. There are similar tests in the spiritual world that help determine the spiritual health and well being of an individual.
For example, how often you take time to pray and read God's word determines how healthy your private relationship with Him is. What ministry you're involved in speaks to the type of gift you have.
The percent of money you give to the Lord compared to what you keep for yourself reveals the true extent of you love for Him. There are many such tests but the one that is the most basic and determines overall spiritual health, maturity and strength are church attendance.
And so of the entire test that evaluate our spiritual health, I'd like to talk about this one and answer the most asked question about church attendance.
Do I Have to Be There Every Time?
This is probably the question many people want to ask but don't say out loud. The most asked question about worship. I believe that there is a problem if you even have to ask this question:
- Like the student who asks how many pages minimum for the report.
- Like asking for the explanation of a joke.
- Like ordering somebody to tell you they love you.
It speaks to attitude!
The gathering of the Saints for worship, for work, for fellowship is a new lifestyle that we enter into and develop as we grow in Christ.
41So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
43Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
- Acts 2:41-47
This passage is not just a comment on how things were but an example for us to follow as to how things ought to be right here in our own congregation.
We need to manage our lifestyle; our activities, our work in order to move as closely as possible to this goal. Our homes, our jobs, our feelings, our recreation can not bring us closer to God than gathering with the saints does. So today I want to give you three very good reasons why each Christian should be at every service of the Church.
Three Good Reasons to Attend Every Service
1. Being here every time pleases God
God has always desired that His people gather to worship Him and that they do so often.
6"Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
To minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord,
To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath
And holds fast My covenant;
7Even those I will bring to My holy mountain
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar;
For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples."
- Isaiah 56:6-7
God was very specific about keeping the people true to the day of worship and pleased with those who kept it.
17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
- Ephesians 5:17-19
God desires that we be involved in this type of activities when we are together, rather than pursuing worldly pleasures. You always have a choice of activities to do on Sunday and Wednesday evenings but worship will always be the choice that pleases the Lord.
15Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. 16And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
- Hebrews 13:15-16
It pleases God to see us offering praise. He was pleased in the O. T. and is the same today. Some Christians do not realize or perhaps have forgotten that pleasing God is what our lives as Christians are about. To know and glorify God is essential if we are to find true meaning for our lives.
- When we worship God we know that we are doing the right thing, that's why it's so satisfying.
- When we worship God in spirit and truth, we have reached the core value of what our life is all about.
You see, not coming to a worship service requires an excuse of some kind (some valid, others not so). But being here never requires an excuse or an explanation.
Our conscience is absolutely clear because we are doing the right thing by being here! Most people want to please the ones they love, this is normal, this is a plain truth. Being here for every worship service pleases God and demonstrates our love for Him. The problem however, is that we would rather please ourselves and make church attendance (convenient, fun, easy, exciting, pleasing etc.) as a motivation. We forget that the object of worship is to please God, not ourselves.
Another reason for full attendance:
2. Being Here Every Time Strengthens Our Faith
When people have problems and you ask them what they need, many times before they mention food or finances they will call out for greater faith. IE - The 9-11 victims in New York have all kinds of financial assistance but they asked for help with their faith in time of crisis. The President of the United States commands the most powerful military in all of history but asks the nation to pray for him so his faith will not falter.
The Apostles witnessed God's miracles and performed mighty deeds themselves but when it came time to ask for something, they asked Jesus to increase their faith - Luke 17:5. Faith is not only necessary for salvation but it is also necessary to be able to manage the many ups and downs of life so we can hang on to that salvation.
Such an important thing, faith.
- How do you acquire it?
- How do you maintain it?
- How do you increase it?
- How do you strengthen it?
Paul say simply that, "Faith comes by hearing... the words of Christ" (Romans 10:17). All the activities in the world combined together do not add a single drop to our faith. Hearing and sharing the word, singing praises, prayer, communion, giving and receiving ministry – these things spark and maintain one's faith. The things that you need to do in order to maintain your spiritual life, things such as :
- resisting sin
- persevering in suffering
- the doing of good
- bearing spiritual fruit.
All of these things are based on the strength of you faith, and the strength of your faith is proportional to your exposure to God's word and God's people. There are no shortcuts in building one's faith.
weak attendance = weak faith = a weak Christian
Strong faith and the fruit that comes from it is usually a result of much teaching, and for most Christians that only comes through faithful attendance. Of course in this type of discussion someone will invariably ask the following question, "If I only come to Sunday morning worship and skip the rest, will I still go to heaven?" I don't know, but you're question does tell me you have an attitude problem.
Doing only what you have to do, this is legalism.
This attitude will ultimately lead you to fall from grace altogether because you're trying to get there with religious works – and minimum religious works at that. This type of question reveals a lack of knowledge regarding the faith to begin with. This person needs to come to church, not just to increase their attendance level, this person needs to come more often so they will learn more about God's grace and be free from the curse of legalism.
Because if a person keeps this type of attitude, no amount of church attendance will save them. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying, "If you don't come to Wednesday evening services, you're going to hell." I'm saying that if you think in terms of attendance as some kind of "brownie points", you're a legalist and being a legalist is what endangers your soul. What I am saying is that:
- We are saved by faith.
- We walk by faith.
- We can move mountains by faith.
- We please God by faith.'
And, that faith is conceived and nourished every time you attend services. So why attend every time ? Because your faith needs for you to be here in order to stay alive and healthy.
3. Being Here Every Time Builds the Church.
23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
- Hebrews 10:23-25
Now the problem here was that the Jewish Christians were weak in their faith and were being tempted to return to Judaism. Their absence from the assembly contributed to their weak faith and their weak faith was not sustaining them under pressure. In addition to this, their absence was hurting others. This is why he encourages them not to abandon the assembly and exhorts them to give a good example and word of encouragement to the others as well.
Your presence at all services is critical in the building up of the Church because through regular attendance you do several things for others:
- You proclaim Christ to each other and the community. (I Corinthians 11:26)
- You provide a Godly example to others. (Hebrews 10:26-29)
Have you ever asked yourselves what your absence from services on a regular basis says to children or younger Christians or visitors? They need to see mature Christians take seriously their attendance at worship so a high standard can be established for them to emulate.
When we gather regularly...
We contribute to the needs of the saints. (I Corinthians 16:1-3)
When we're here regularly we contribute more than money, we contribute a solid example, an action of encouragement, a witness of love for the Church.
You also demonstrate your support of the leaders and ministers of this church who are charged with leading and feeding this flock - (Hebrews 13:17).
Our leaders have set these times for us to gather for worship, fellowship, service and prayer, these times are not arbitrary – they expect all of the members to be here. I don't remember anyone saying we'll meet on Sunday morning and Wednesday evenings – if you feel like it! Submission to those who are over us in the Lord, as Hebrews says, also includes the cooperation of members attending at the times that the leaders have set!
We need to remember that regular church attendance by all the members at all the services is the first step to church growth and usually the first to personal spiritual growth as well. I'm sure that there would be great excitement if there were 500 people meeting regularly at the congregation. This will never happen however if we don't get the 80 people who are here to meet on a regular basis first!
I repeat, you cannot have church growth (spiritual or numerical) unless every single member is committed to being faithful at every service. When the most experienced minister to the most recruit convert acceptable the fact that putting the kingdom of heaven first in your life begins with the very humble and simple task of coming to church regularly – then the Lord will trust us with the kind of growth personally and corporately we seek after.
At this part of my lesson I usually offer an invitation to those who want to confess Christ, and be baptized; or those who need prayer to come forward to be recognized. If this is your intention then by all means please come forward when the next song will be sung.
Today, however, I want to make two other invitations.
You know, in the United States of America the brethren would tell me that with this sermon I've gone from preaching to meddling. But brothers and sisters after observing our pattern of attendance I think it's time for some serious meddling from the preacher. With that in mind please hear the invitation I am making to you today.
1. If you don't come to all the services regularly please realize that pleasing God more fully, strengthening your faith and making a real contribution to this church requires you to change. I encourage you not to be angry, or proud, but rather to humble yourselves in Christ and repent.
Make it your goal to be faithful to all the services each week, even if it means starting slowly, adding an additional time as you re - arrange your schedule to accommodate this change. Of course, some work, some are sick, but you know if your excuse is a valid one before the Lord, so make the necessary changes if you need to.
2. My second invitation is this.
If you do come regularly, even to all the weekly services, then look around and see what you can do to serve, encourage or help others. If you've established the first step of Christian development in regular attendance, take a second and third step of learning how to minister to others in the church.
It could be as simple as making sure you greet warmly as many as you can at each service. Perhaps you could volunteer to help when we ask for volunteers. Perhaps you could seriously consider taking on a responsibility in one of our ministry groups.
In any event, I ask you to test your spiritual health this morning and do what you need to do to maintain and improve it.