When a Christian assembles with the saints on Lord's day morning, has he not done all that God requires of him so far as attendance of services is concerned?
Is there a positive commandment that says that the Christian must be present at meetings other than the Sunday morning worship service? How much of a Christian's time is required in order to avoid the wrath of God?
Would one be eternally lost because of failure to attend the services of the church other than the public worship assembly on the Lord's day?
Where is the chapter and verse which demands that Christians attend other services?
These questions are frequently asked, and sometimes they are found on the lips of very sincere church members. If you will examine the questions carefully, however, you will detect in them a pattern that represents a deadly philosophy that has gripped the hearts of many church members and which, unless repudiated, will in time snuff out all semblance of spiritual life. For that reason they demand our sober consideration. They reveal a misunderstanding of the mission of the church, and inadequate conception of the purposes and scope of Christianity, and a fear-ridden attitude that views Christianity as more of a burden than a blessing.
The Mission Of The Church: -- It is the mission of the Lord's church to save the lost. The saving of the world is the most pressing problem facing mankind. The human race is rapidly moving toward the precipice of disaster and ruin. It can be saved only by the pure, unperverted and full Gospel of Christ. That is not simply a pious statement of some remote ideal. It is the truth -- God's Truth, the Gospel Truth.
If the blood and tragedy of the last two wars have not taught us that carnal force will not save civilization, then we are exceedingly stupid. "But it saved us from Hitler and Mussolini!" Yes, it saved us from these evil men that we might face another evil man, Stalin!
If Stalin and his bloody henchmen were destroyed tonight their departure would not permanently solve a single fundamental problem. Before the sun rises tomorrow there would be someone to take their places -- if not in Russia, then somewhere else in this greedy, sinful world.
The world cannot be saved by destroying evil men. It can be saved only by destroying the evil in men. The Gospel of Christ is the only force that can drive evil out of the hearts of men, and the Lord's church is the only institution ordained of God to propagate this mighty Gospel.
How The Church Is To Function In Order To Save The World?:- To the end that the world may be saved, God has placed a three-fold responsibility upon the church.
1. To preach the gospel to the alien sinner that he may be saved from his past sins. The gospel is God's power to save. (Rom. 1:16). Only through the salvation of individuals can the world be saved. When one is converted to Christ, his heart is attuned to the heart of God, and he is at peace with his brethren and with his fellowman.
2. To preach the gospel to the Christian that he may be strengthened in the faith. (Heb. 6:1,2; 4:11-15; 5:12-14). Being a Christian is a matter of growing in grace and in the knowledge of Christ. To be a fruitful Christian, one's faith must be strengthened and increased. He must go on to better things, advancing toward spiritual maturity.
It is the mission of the church to nourish babes in Christ, and to strengthen more mature Christians by edifying them and preparing them for greater service. This is one of the great purposes of the Sunday morning and mid-week Bible study classes, and of all the preaching and teaching services of the church.
3. To preach the gospel through the lives of Christians as they go about doing good through works of Christian benevolence. The church is to preach the gospel not only in word, but also in deed. Christian example is needed desperately as is Christian precept (Jas. 1:27).
Christians, as members of the Lord's church, are to go about doing good -- visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, lifting up the down-trodden, strengthening the weak. "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men" (1 Thes. 5:14).
What many members of the church need to understand is that God requires of them not only worship, but also service. Worship is essential. Those who forsake the public assembly flaunt the Will of God, defy the authority of God, disobey the commandments of God, wound the heart of God, and incur the wrath of God (Heb. 10:25).
Is One Hour A Week Sufficient?: -- In all the frantic effort to justify a "one-hour-a-week-on-Sunday-morning-is-enough" religion, hast it occurred to any one to ask why the church meets at other times? Why have a Bible study period on Sunday morning? Why have a preaching service on Sunday evening? Why have a mid-week Bible study? Why have a spring meeting and a fall meeting for preaching the gospel? Why preach the gospel over the radio?
Shall We Cancel The Other Meetings?: -- Here is a proposal: If Christians can please God by meeting one hour a week on Sunday morning, let us cancel all the other meetings of the church! If they are not needed, they ought to be canceled. There is too much to do in this busy world to be wasting time on useless meetings. Let us go all the way. Let us sell the church building and use the money for some good purpose. We do not need a plant in which thousands of dollars are invested merely to provide a group of half-hearted church members a place to endure a one-hour service on Sunday!
"Now, that is rediculous. Of course we are not going to cancel the services, and we would not think of selling the church building." Well, why not? If you think that it is not necessary for you to attend meetings other than the Lord's day worship service, why have them?
"But the other meetings are for those who are not Christians." Who said so? Even if that were true, who is going to interest non-Christians in coming to these meetings? Should non-Christians be expected to attend meetings that Christians themselves will not attend?
"But there are Christians who do attend." Yes, but if they were all like you, would any of them attend? Is it any more their duty to attend than it is yours? If every member were exactly like you, how many meetings would have to be canceled?
Do You Really Know The Bible?: -- "But I know the Bible. I don't need to attend Bible study classes to learn the Bible." If that is true, then you are much smarter than the scholars who have spent all their lives studying the Bible. Suppose someone whould ask you, "What must I do to be saved?" Could you give an intelligent, Scriptural answer, citing book, chapter, and verse? Or would you stutter and stammer and say, "I know that is what the Bible teaches, but I can't tell you where to find it"?
Could you answer these questions intelligently and turn to the passages that teach the truth on the subject -- and these questions are always "popping up" in conversations about religion: Is it possible for a child of God to so sin as to be finally lost? Can one be saved outside of the church? How do you know that baptism is immersion? How do you know that sprinkling and pouring are not baptism? Where is the authority for taking the Lord's Supper on the Lord's day? If the thief on the cross was saved without baptism, why can't we be? What is the Scriptural basis for the refusal of churches of Christ to use mechanical instruments of music in the worship? Upon what basis will God answer Prayer? Why do you believe that the New Testament is the only rule of faith and practice in true religion? Why should we not be governed by the Old Testament?
Must We Demand A Positive Commandment?: -- There are those who insist that Christians are obliged to attend the public assembly on Lord's day morning simply because they are positively commanded to do so, but who contend that attendance of the other services is optional because they have never been able to find a positive commandment that states "in so many words" that Christians must be present at the other meetings.
If your reasoning is traveling in that reverse direction you need to search your heart in the light of God's Word. Of what sort is your religion? Are you a legalist who demands a positive commandment "in so many words" before you are willing to engage in any good work? If so, the logical conclusion is that you would not even attend the Lord's day assembly if you could not find a positive commandment "in so many words" to do so.
God, our Father, invites us to eat at His table. Faithful Christians regard it as a privilege to eat with their brothers and sisters at their Father's table. Reluctant church members say, "Must we come? Will we be punished if we do not come? May we come when it suits us and stay away when it is not convenient to come?" Surely you can see that such an attitude toward the worship service is unbecoming to and unworthy of the children of God. Does not the same principle apply to the other services of the church? The purpose of the other meetings is to preach the gospel, teach the Word, proclaim the truth, not only that the alien sinner may be saved, but also that the Christian may be strengthened.
What About Positive Commandments?: -- There are, however, a multitude of positive commandments, and admonitions that clearly teach that it is both the duty and privilege of the able-bodied Christian to attend all the services of the church.
The Christian is to love God with his whole being (Matt. 22:36,37); to be about his Father's business (Lk. 2:49); to present his body as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1); to be fervent in spirit (Rom. 12:11); to abound in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58); to be zealous in the support of all that is good (Gal. 4:18; 6:9,10; Titus 2:14; 3:14); to shine as a light in the world (Phil. 2:15); to offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually (Heb. 13:13-15); to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3).
Christian Diligence And Zeal: -- All of these passages, and many others that could be introduced, exhort Christians to zeal and diligence in the Lord's service.
The world stands in desperate need of conversion to Christ. It is the duty of the Christian to do his best to convert his next door neighbor, the man across the street, and the man across the seas. This can be done only if the church functions as God would have it; and that, in turn, can be accomplished only if individuals function as efficient members of the body. This means that an intensified program of training is necessary, and such training and teaching is one of the purposes of the meetings other than the Lord's day assembly for public worship. These meetings are arranged under the direction ot the elders to help the church carry out its mission to save the alien sinner and strengthen the Christian.
Now is it good or bad to have such meetings? Surely anyone who wants to see the church grow will agree that it is good. If it is good, then it is good for Christians to attend them. It comes under the heading of good works. In Jas. 4: 17 the Holy Spirit warns: "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Since these meetings constitute good works it is sinful for Christians to neglect to attend them. When they fail to attend them they not only reveal a lack of spiritual appetite, but they refuse to do their duty.
To those who insist that they have done their full duty when they attend the public worship service on the Lord's day, these questions are directed: Jesus teaches that we are to love God with all our hearts, souls and minds. Is devoting one hour a week to the church evidence of such all-consuming love? Jesus, who is our example, said to His disturbed parents, "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" Is one hour out of 168 enough to be about our Father's business?
We are taught to present our bodies as living sacrifices. Do you present yourself as a living sacrifice 52 hours of the year, and then become dead to the service to God the remaining 8,684 hours of the year? We are taught to be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. How much spiritual temperature does a man have when he ignores three-fourths of the meetings of the church? Is such a man seeking that he "may excell to the edifying of the church"? Is he abounding in the work of the Lord? Is he zealously affected always in good things? Does he take advantage of opportunities to do good unto all men, or has he become weary in well doing? Is he redeeming the time, wisely taking advantage of ever opportunity to understand what the Will of the Lord is?
Is he, by being zealous of good works, shining as a light in the world? Has he learned to maintain good works for necessary uses to that he may not be unfruitful? Does he avoid slothfulness by being diligent in the service of the Lord? Is he warding off apostasy by adding to faith the other Christian virtues? Is he contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered unto the saints?
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58).
By Bonds Stocks in The Preceptor, Vol. 1, No. 6, April 1952.
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