“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1:6)
I have been greatly encouraged to see the number of covenant members of our church, and our regular weekly attendance, steadily grow. The two greatest reasons that newest members of our church family regularly give, for joining us, is Jesus and you!
They have been attracted to our church because they see the value we place on God’s Word. We come together each week not for entertainment, politicking or speculation, but to hear the Word of Christ proclaimed from outside of us to all of us. The “right preaching of the Word” is one of the distinctions of an authentic church and one that our church’s leaders and members understood as crucial to its health. Visitors to our church quickly discern, and often remark, on the centrality of the Word in our worship, not only through the preaching of the Word, but by its prominence in our reading, singing, confessing and praying. We’re a Christocentric, Word-centric church.
First time visitors to our church almost always remark about the presence of Christ among our assembly on Sunday morning. They mention how they saw Christ in you, the love you have for one another and how “alive” you are. What’s the reason for this? See above! You’re like this because of Jesus and because of the work God is presently doing in you, through the faith He’s given each of you. One of the best five minutes of each Sunday morning, for me, is the five minutes before the start of the service, when I see the body of Christ assembled, glad to be with one another and to worship the living God. That’s a testimony to the other 75 minutes of our worship together before God.
Sam Allberry said, “We express our invisible unity with all believers in the universal church through our visible unity in the local church.” The New Testament never envisioned or prescribed for the church to be you and Charles Stanley on Sunday morning, or just Jesus and you. It assumes Christians will “come together as a church” (1 Cor. 11:18). It assumes we will “not forsake the assembly of ourselves together, as is the manner of some” (Heb. 10:25). The church came together for worship, in the book of Acts, on “the Lord’s Day.”
At this point, I could tell you that attending church is like taking your vitamins, exercising or eating well, and that if you don’t, you’re spiritual health is at risk, which is true. I could list all the “benefits” of never missing a Lord’s Day service, which would serve to heap up guilt and place your eyes on the consumer – you. But the opposite, God’s grace, is what motivates church attendance. You’ll only be motivated to put Christ first because you know the truth of His Gospel. That kind of motivation only happens if you’ve put your faith in Christ alone and yielded to His lordship over your life. It only happens if you’ve experienced that truth as the Holy Spirit has changed you from the inside out. It only happens if, increasingly, the greatest desire of your life is no longer other people or other things, but Jesus! And that desire radiates out into all you are and do. It radiates out in your desire to attend worship each Sunday and forsake all else that tugs on your affections. Yes, that means you desire and prioritize it over Sunday sports, leisure and sleeping in. Corporate worship is not only an incredible privilege, but also communing with the saints before the majestic throne of the One who saved you, and called you into His body.