A baffling question: ‘Do I have to be there?’

Published 10:05 am Friday, June 3, 2022

As a Preacher and an Elder of the church, one thing that baffles me is when a fellow member of the church asks, “Do I Have To Be There?” This question is often asked by members of the church in reference to worship or other activities of the church. It is asked by those seeking justification for missing worship and other activities of the local congregation of which they are supposed to be a part.
Unless one is prohibited in some way from attending a function of the church, whether it be worship or some other activity, the question that comes to my mind is, “where else would you rather be”? Christians should have a desire to be with other Christians at every time possible. The proper attitude of love and fellowship is seen in the actions of the first Century Church. Of fellowship among the first Century Church, we read in Acts 2:c42 KJV, “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Later in Acts 2:c46-47 we read, “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Paul also taught that we must have this type of love for each other (Romans 12:9-10).
As Christians we must understand we have an obligation to submit ourselves to elders in such matters as attendance. The writer of Hebrews 13:17 says: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” This is imperative because elders are charged with the oversight of the local congregation. Each eldership has been given the responsibility to “feed the church of God” (Acts 20:28 KJV), and that “feeding” involves providing the necessary teaching to bring them to spiritual maturity. Paul discusses the necessity of growing to maturity in Ephesians 4:11-13. In that discussion about spiritual maturity, elderships play a crucial role. Therefore, when a congregation’s eldership sets a day and a time for the church to assemble, the church should assemble in order to be spiritually fed. From the well-known passage of Hebrews 10:23-25 we read: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and to good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” By following the teaching in Hebrews 10, the elders are able to safely ensure that the membership is fed the word of God and grow thereby.
When we are absent from any assembly of the congregation we are members of, whether it be worship, classes, or fellowship, we by our absence, discourage those that do attend. That is why the Hebrew writer instructs us to attend all services possible. It is one way we are able to “stir up love and good works.” If we are honest with ourselves, we have to conclude that unless we are truly hindered from attending, when we fail to assemble together, we are thinking only of ourselves and our desires.
Perhaps the most relevant question is, how does our “staying home” help us get to heaven. Heaven is the ultimate goal of true Christians. When we miss assemblies when we could have been with the brethren, how does this stimulate our fellow Christians unto good works.
Paul said, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:3-8 KJV). This exhortation is designed to help us see the need to encourage others.
In conclusion, the Child of God should never ask “Do I have to be there?” Just the opposite, we should seek to be with our fellow Christians at every opportunity.
(Tony Hoss is minister at Centerview Church of Christ, Elizabethton)

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