- 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony – top ticket price was $4,000
- 2017 Boxing Match – ringside seat: $145,200. Then there’s basketball, hockey, soccer and baseball.
- 2016 Baseball championship… average price was $2,249… but the top price was $1.17 million.
I could go on. But here’s the point… every one of these events were available to watch, at no cost at all, on television. Nothing. Zero. And in almost every case, you get a much better view on television… plus you don’t have to pay outrageous prices for snacks at home. So why do people even bother?
Earlier this year my wife and I were spending a weekend in Tagish. We had a wonderful time and we were able to take in the worship service, online. I have to admit that it was rather nice! There we were, out in the comfort of our wilderness home, sitting on our love seat, coffee in hand, feet propped up, lyrics were on the screen (thank you Joel)… it was really comfortable. And quite honestly, I think for one week here or one week there, it probably would be all right. It was a way to stay connected when we couldn't be there in-person … but there was also something very significant missing.
Yes, God was still able to speak to me through His servant, and I thoroughly enjoyed the music, but as comfortable as that was it just wasn’t the same. There is something very meaningful about being at an event live and in-person. No matter how exciting an event is on television, it doesn’t carry the same “feel” as being there. If that is true for sports… how much more is it true when it comes to our time to worship the Lord.
Hebrews 10:25, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
I wonder if it was complacency and comfort that was keeping people away, or if it was the threat of persecution. We don’t know exactly when this letter to the Hebrews was written, but it is likely before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (AD 70). It is likely that there was a fair bit of persecution happening to the Christians. It was not an easy time. Meeting together could have been a life or death situation.
Whatever the reason, the writer of Hebrews recognizes that some people have stopped participating in worship and he urges the remaining followers of Christ to not only continue coming themselves, but also to encourage one another to keep coming (or to come back). He’s basically sending out the message… “we need you”!
And today… especially after we’ve become comfortable watching worship services electronically, I believe the message for us is that we need to get back into the practice of meeting together in person.
Watching online is fine… as a last resort… and hopefully only very temporarily.
So what’s the big deal? Why do we need to be AT the church? Why do we need to come together in-person as the Church? There are many reasons, but I’m going to summarize it into just three.
Accountability (spiritually there are extremely few “lone rangers”).
We are all accountable to God, first and foremost (Romans 14:12 – “Each of us will give an account of himself to God”). But we also have a responsibility (and accountability) for one another.
Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”
The idea here is not that we are trying to pry into each other’s lives and trying to find fault with each other or feel morally superior to anyone else…. but simply that fact that every one of us is prone to failure and one of the best ways to avoid that or to recover from that is by others who are close to us.
1 Thess. 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” What beautiful words: “encourage” “build one another up”… we can’t do that on our own. That’s what accountability does. It isn’t a negative; it’s a positive! It’s a safeguard. It’s a building tool.
Quite honestly, this is something we resist because we find it offensive to have to answer to anybody!
But here’s the thing… notice that we need to submit to accountability. It’s not something that can be forced on us.
The church should be a safe place where we hold one another accountable for the purpose of building one another up.
Spiritual Growth (closely related to accountability is maturity – growing spiritually).
Whereas “accountability” generally refers to correction of some sort, “spiritual growth” speaks of discipleship.
There’s a reason why the disciples spent so much time with Jesus. There’s a reason why the disciples spent so much time together as the church. It is not that someone can’t grow (spiritually) on their own; (they can), but it isn’t nearly as likely.
Acts 2:42-47 speaks about God’s people coming together very regularly; even daily. The worshipped together, they fellowshipped together. They broke bread together. And through it all, they grew together. As a result, every day, the Lord was adding to their number. This didn’t happen because they each went off on their own spiritual pilgrimage.
Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” That’s the beauty of the church. Together, we sharpen one another; or as Hebrews puts it, we spur one another on towards maturity.
Ministry (we have a job to do and we do it better together).
In most situations in life, we are more productive when we are part of a team. It might not be always the case, but in most cases, we accomplish more when we work together than we could as individuals.
I believe this is the point of Paul’s teaching about the body having many parts. (1 Cor. 12). Each part has a function on it’s own; but when it all comes together, that is when it is really productive. For example, the eye can see a lot of wonderful things… “oh… isn’t that a lovely dinner on the plate” Yes, the eye can see the dinner, but seeing it is not going to nourish the body. At some point, the hand has to get involved and pick up the food. Then there’s the mouth and the stomach… It’s only when all the parts work together that the body is able to accomplish more than what the sum of the individual parts could do on their own.
And as Christians, we have a calling as well. We are here for a purpose. We have a function.
At the start of his ministry Jesus told his first disciples, “You are the salt of the earth… you are the light of the world…” (Matthew 5:13, 14). And at the end of his ministry he told his followers to “Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). There is always a task before us. The same is true with the church. We come together, in part, to be able to serve; and with very few exceptions, we are able to function more successfully when we are together.
Accountability, discipleship, and ministry... these are just some of the reasons why, I believe, Hebrews 10:25 urges God’s people to not give up meeting together. Bottom line is that it is essential.
Coming to church, live and in-person, is a privilege that we must not take that for granted.