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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Most pastors will readily admit that one of the reasons, if not the chief reasons, why Christianity today is failing or unable to have a tremendous impact for the cause of Christ is due to a neglect of the local church by those who claim to know the Lord. The fact is the majority of church members do not attend church anymore. It is all too common for a church to have two or three times as many members on the church roll than it has in attendance on a Sunday morning. They are indeed, as they have been aptly called, "the missing majority."
When you study the Scriptures concerning the New Testament church, you find out that this was not always the case. I am sure that each church had its share of shirkers who had their patented excuses for not attending but for the most part the majority of church members were present for the services. They believed it then, and most people today profess to believe that every saved, blood-bought child of God should attend church faithfully, on a regular basis; that they should never miss a church service unless providentially hindered.
The problem though with today’s church members is that they have confused the issue of having a reason as opposed to giving an excuse for not attending church. These is a vast difference between the two; a reason and an excuse. According to the Bible, there is no excuse for not attending church.
Do You Have a Reason Or an Excuse?
The Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines what a reason is: "explanation or justification of an act; a cause, motive; sound thought or judgment; good sense." The same dictionary defines an excuse as follows: "plea or explanation offered in defense of one’s conduct; apology; release from obligation, duty, etc., that which extenuates or justifies a fault; a pretended reason for conduct." Based upon these given definitions, an excuse for not attending church is in reality a shaky explanation to justify or defend one’s course of action or conduct; it is a weak attempt to relieve oneself from his obligation, duty, etc. to attending the worship services of the church. In fact, it is a disguised reason given under false pretenses.
A church member that gives excuses rather than have reasons for not attending church will one day be made to realize that he is like the foolish man described for us in Matthew 7 where Jesus said: "And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it" (vs. 26-27).
The excuses that people give for not attending the services of the church are varied and well known. Probably the most commonly used excuse given today for not attending church is the simple explanation that there are too many hypocrites in the church. It has been suggested that to use such line of reasoning the man should quit his job because there are too many in the workplace that are not carrying their share of the load. The woman should quit shopping at the grocery store because there are bad cooks who are shopping there also. The children should quit school because there are some kids there who are nothing more than juvenile delinquents.
To quote from a Baptist pastor, he put it this way: "The wife can always excuse herself from attending because her husband won’t go. The husband can decline because his wife won’t attend. If they happen to be together they can blame the children...they just won’t get up and go to church. If they are all present and can’t blame one another, they’ll reach an agreement that they don’t want to leave their dog alone." To some, this may seem a bit exaggerated but the truth is I have personally been given the excuse by some for not attending church was because either the family pet was hurt, sick, or dying!
There are those who will use the excuse that they are afraid to commit themselves because they don’t want to make any promises that they might not be able to keep. Others will always say that they are going to get started attending church one of these days. Some will piously excuse themselves by saying that they are not going to get started until they are sure they can live it. This would be equivalent of a sick person saying, "I’m not going to the hospital until I get well." The truth is, there is no excuse for missing church.
Noteworthy Quotes Concerning Church Attendance
A Baptist pastor in the mid 1800’s had this to say about church attendance: "Inquire for the statistics of preceding years, and you will probably find that the proportion of church-goers is relatively diminishing. A large missionary field is spreading abroad on every side, in the immediate vicinity of our very churches" (Francis Wayland). How even more so this is true of today!
He goes on to say: "The importance of this subject can hardly be exaggerated. Everyone knows that the Christian who has begun to think lightly of the ordinances of the sanctuary, is already treading in the path of the backslider. Who that, by sickness, or other providential hindrance, has been kept for a time from the meeting of the saints, has not uttered the plaint of the Psalmist, ‘My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord’ (Ps. 84:2)." He even went as far as to say that where Sunday is not honored by the public to worship God, "how soon do parents and children relapse into almost heathenism!"
In order to emphasize the lack of concern on the part of those who profess to know the Lord in the matter of church attendance, an independent Baptist pastor described the standard excuses and explanations that are used a great deal, this way: "One of the really surprising things is that weather has so much effect on religion. A lack of attendance at church is always listed as one of the reasons for religious failure. A great percentage of folks will not attend church when it is raining, snowing, when it is hot or cold.
In the southwest part of Ohio it is estimated that it will rain about ten Sundays a year, snow on at least three and it figures to be hot twelve Sundays, cold for at least nine. This makes thirty-four Sundays these folks cannot attend church. They will have company visiting their home on about eight Sundays and will be away visiting for about another eight. This makes fifty Sundays a year these folks cannot attend church. It leaves two Sundays a year they do attend–Easter and Christmas, if it doesn’t rain or snow." Can this be said to be true of your life? Are you using excuses for not going to church?
What the Bible Says
In case you were wondering, the Bible has plenty to say about why you need the church and how the church needs you. Jesus plainly declared in John 4:23, "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall not worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him." Worshiping the Lord upon the first day of every week is one of the spiritual functions and privileges to be enjoyed by every Christian.
This is more than a teaching of Scripture, it is a practice to be followed. This was the pattern set forth by the believers throughout the New Testament: "...being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled..." (John. 20:19); "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them..." (Acts 20:7); even the apostle Paul told the New Testament church at Corinth (even as the churches of Galatia were practicing) to: "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him..." (I Cor. 16:2).
Sunday is God’s appointed time and the church is God’s appointed place for God’s people to assemble themselves together to worship Him. As John correctly referred to Sunday as "the Lord’s day" (Rev. 1:10), that’s just what it is. Sunday belongs to the Lord, it is His day, not yours. You do not have the right to decide and choose what you will or will not do on that day. Sunday is the day set aside by God that is to be kept holy for the purpose of the praise and worship of Almighty God. In Psalm 42:4, David said, "...for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday." David also said: "...I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness" (Ps. 84:10).
We cannot escape the clear teaching of Hebrews 10:25, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." A careful examination of this passage will reveal that this was not a suggestion or a request but a command. And Jesus said in John 14:15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." The emphasis of this verse in its context is not so much on what a believer gets from the assembly but rather on what he can contribute to the assembly.
Faithfulness in church attendance encourages others and provokes them to love and good works (v.24). According to v.25, one of the great motives for faithfulness in this area is the soon coming of Jesus Christ. We must keep in mind that one day all the saved will stand at the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of himself to God (Rom. 14:10-12; II Cor. 5:10).
Following the exhortation and command to faithful church attendance in v.25, we are warned in v.26 about sinning willfully "after that we have received the knowledge of truth." This is very important because this is dealing with an attitude that leads to repeated disobedience; this is rebellion against true knowledge. And the Bible warns us: "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17).
The church is a place where God is glorified, the sinner evangelized and the saint edified. It is not only a place where God is worshipped but also where we can fellowship with other Christians. The church, being the pillar and ground of the truth, is where the child of God is fed, trained, and educated. At church you are surrounded by fellow Christians that can help, encourage, and comfort you.
It is in and through the church where you can serve the Saviour who loved you and died for yours sins. The church is the body of Christ and He works in and through his body of which He is the Head. Remember, Christ "loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Eph. 5:25), He purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Therefore "unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Eph. 3:21).
There’s No Excuse
Nehemiah asked the question that needs to be asked today, "Why is the house of God forsaken?" (Neh. 13:11). If a Christian doesn't meet regularly with others for fellowship, prayer, and the preaching of God’s Word, his enthusiasm for the Lord’s work will begin to wane. This leads to apathy in spiritual matters, and before long such an one will begin to blend in with his worldly surroundings to the point that nobody would ever know he’s a new creature in Christ Jesus.
The attitude some church members take toward their church is somewhat, to say the least, a little bit perplexing. They say everybody should attend church and yet never go themselves. They expect the church to be there when they need it and yet never support it. They encourage the effort to seek new members for a church they do not attend. Parents want their children to attend the church even though they never go.
What we really need today is a willingness to turn from our excuses and follow God’s instructions in His Word concerning the church and the believer’s responsibilities to her. If you are not a member of a sound, independent, fundamental Baptist church, than you need to join one! If you are already a member of such a church, then you need to love it and support it with your presence, prayers, and even your "purse." Your church is the place where you can grow, find comfort and fellowship, and serve the Lord for His honor and glory.
Can you say as David did in Ps. 26:8, "Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth." The next time you stay home on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, or when your church is having a Bible or mission conference, or when your church is having a revival meeting, or whenever else your church doors are opened, remember that there’s no excuse for not attending.