It would come to no one’s surprise that church attendance is on the decline in America. In the 1950’s almost half of Americans found themselves in church on a weekly basis. Fast forward to 2018 and that number would be around 20%. I found it interesting that Utah, Alabama and Tennessee have the highest percentage of church-goers while Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire have the lowest numbers. Our great state of Pennsylvania was tied for 28th. That doesn’t even factor in the number of churches that preached the gospel in the 1950’s verses today.
Unfortunately the lack of attendance doesn’t just reflect our culture as a whole, but also has invaded our good Bible-preaching churches as well. Even many professing Christians, in evangelical and fundamental church members, find regular church attendance to be pretty low on their priority list. However, our reading today reminds us of the absolute importance of church attendance. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another: and so much the more as you see the day approaching.” This very familiar passage gives a very clear command to be in church. Yes, with the advent of the internet and live-streaming church services I could easily sit at home in my recliner, pull up the services of a good church and hear a good message. But this is no excuse and a poor substitute for the “assembling of ourselves”.
One of the main differences between live attendance and watching a message online is mentioned in this verse. While we are assembling, the admonition is given to exhort one another and to “provoke until love and to good works” (verse 24). We are just not to be pew warmers when we do come to church and simply check the box that we were there but to be actively engaged in being an encouragement to others while we are there. Our attendance shouldn’t just be based on what I get while I’m there but what I can offer others in the form of encouragement or exhortation.
On a side note, while there is no verse that commands us to be in church every time the doors are open, we have to ask ourselves when we do not attend a service if the reason we are not attending is really a good reason to stay home. If we are honest, more times than not, that if we really had a desire to be in church we could find a way to be there. True??