Disengaged with the Community, a slippery slope

Posted by on Mar 14, 2017 in Blog | No Comments

assemle

 

Many believers find themselves in places of distress and darkness that they eventually become quite comfortable with. It is never anything that happens overnight. I would like to define this by calling it the breaking of fellowship. What I mean by this is that people intentionally separate themselves from other followers of Christ. Specifically, though, when they disengage from church and related gatherings. I hope to show why this is not only vitally important to recognize but also why it’s distinct from just hanging out with other Christian friends. If you liken it to gaining weight it is a slow and quiet process. The real problem lies in the fact that when one realizes what they are now faced with the, process of getting back to a healthy poundage. It is a very slow and difficult journey to undertake. The underlying principle that is necessary to motivate someone to accomplish this is intentionality. I make this analogy because it seems vital for us as followers of Christ to understand that when we begin to break fellowship we begin down a very slippery slope. What we end up gaining is the ability to sin easier. And the necessary resources to stay stuck, not just in complacency, but in any situation that makes it very difficult to walk with our Savior.

Let me begin to make the distinction between hanging out with friends who self-identify as Christian and actually assembling together with yourselves for the purpose of strengthening and encouraging each other in the Lord Jesus Christ. First, let’s look at the heart of my post, assembling ourselves together. Hebrews states, “…let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” emphasis added. [1] The writer here is offering a clear and concise argument of the sacrifice that Jesus made, how he offered it one time for all and no more is needed. Which leads him to an expression of hope and excitement, encouraging his readers to motivate each other to acts of love and to lift one another up. They are to do so assembled. While I will admit this letter was not written to any particular church although most scholars agree it was penned to Jewish Christians. This helps us in a couple ways. One, Jews knew what it meant to assemble with one another. They had been meeting in tents and synagogues for many years. That is where they would listen to the Torah and worship. Two, Dr. Craig Keener points out, “some ancient groups like the Epicureans engaged in mutual exhortation; it was a standard practice of early Christianity.”[2] He continues, “synagogues functioned as community centers, and Jews rarely in attendance would therefore exclude themselves from the active life of their community…”[3] It seems that culturally the “assembling together” was a practice well known to the people. It was a community gathering, weekly Jewish & Christian practice (Acts. 13:14,42,16:13, 20:7). Although the practice of church as we experience today did not completely form until a couple centuries latter we can defiantly see its progression. Dr. James Freerkson argues, “one very important reason Christians are to assemble is for reciprocal encouragement, strengthening, stirring up what they can gain from one another (Col. 3:12-26).[4]

Let us do a short comparison. When fellow Christians get together is it with the full intent to encourage each other or to exhort each other in the scripture? I know very few people who “hang out” with this as their intent. Can you say that when you plan to “chill” for a couple hours with some friends are you intentionally looking to lift up and motivate each other to do good? In my experience that is a big NO. Now, that is not to say we can’t do this but it is rarely ever done. So I don’t think there is a strong enough comparison between what we see both culturally and Biblically with “hanging out” as friends. My conclusion then is the assembling together mentioned by the writer of Hebrews and inferred by other texts does not qualify as equal to getting together with friends on a random or even planned evening.

So why is this important? Well it seems very clear that the encouragement, exhortation, the lifting up of one another, and the overall fellowship of Christians can only be practiced wholeheartedly, in the proper assemblage of one another. That is to say, the only place I can see that all these things come together intentionally, is a church service. Elements of them can be found at random times, when brothers and sisters in Christ get-together. But we are to do this on purpose and regularly. So what happens to somebody if they don’t participate in assembling themselves together as the scriptures teach? Well, it seems very clear there will be no encouragement, there will be no lifting up, there’ll be no godly instruction. People therefore, ultimately find themselves where this post started, darkness and very easily slipping away from trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. Find yourself a good church. Where being comfortable is not the first priority on your checklist. Rather, look for a place where you’ll be encouraged and strengthened. Church is a community of believers holding one another accountable through teaching and relationships. It is a place to worship God in unity, solely focused upon Him. It is where we are equipped to engage the world around us and reminded of our need of a savior. It is where you can grow in your knowledge of God. Where you can experience the community of Christian believers intentionally, “… all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

 

[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Heb 10:24–25.

[2] Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1993, p. 671

[3] Ibid. Keener

[4] James Freerkson, Liberty Bible Commentary; Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN; 1983; p. 2566