As far back as I can remember, up to 16 years old, my parents took my siblings and me to Granny’s house to visit her. Boy was it was an event! We weren’t the only ones who made frequent, weekly visits to Granny’s; it was very, very, very rare that we’d be on one of our weekly visits, typically on a Friday or Saturday night, and my cousins not be there with my aunts and uncles. We didn’t have to wait for family reunions to see each other we practically grew up with each other. I learned many valuable lessons at Granny’s house, like what peer pressure and bullying looks like: My older cousins (primarily females) dressed me in girl’s clothes, put Lee Press On Nails [nostalgia] on me, put balloons up my shirt, and made me perform singing/dancing acts with them for my Granny and our parents. I am so thankful to God there was no such thing as social media or smartphones in those days, and yes, I’m still in therapy!
My Granny had a room she called “K-Mart” (K-Mart was the Wal-Mart of the early 80’s). She would find all sorts of “Blue Light Specials” [more nostalgia] throughout the year and would save them for Christmas gifts. Sometimes she’d surprise us and open K-Mart so we could get a toy to play with while we were at the house. More times than I can count my dad gave us a lecture on the way to Granny’s house, “Don’t ask your Granny for anything!” “Yes sir!” We would reply! It seemed so easy when it was only dad, but then you get to the house and all of those older, mean cousins pressure and threaten you, and it’s suddenly not so easy to just obey dad. Somehow I was always the chosen cousin ambassador sent out by the female majority ruled board of cousins to ask Granny if she would open K-Mart. It worked most of the time and all of the cousins would get a toy and everyone got to play with theirs; except me! I was typically standing in the corner for disobeying my dad and asking Granny to open K-Mart.
I loved going to my Granny’s house and I miss having the opportunity. I didn’t love going because of her version of K-Mart. I loved going to simply be with and visit with my Granny. The bonus was being able to share so much life with my aunts, uncles and cousins; after all we were family and Granny was the reason. Granny’s life was rough; her husband, my grandpa and my mom’s dad was an alcoholic, womanizer, and abuser. My Granny’s health was not the best and we all knew that even at a young age, so we simply cherished being with her. Sure, as a child, I didn’t really have a choice whether I wanted to go to her house or not, but that didn’t matter, I WANTED to go. I never heard my siblings or cousins complain about having to be at Granny’s house. We loved it and I believe we cherished it.
As a pastor, my desire is for the church to be like going to Granny’s house. I desire to see Christians grow so in love with Jesus that being with him in his house is a joy and not a burden; where we want to visit with him. We had no obligation to be at Granny’s house so often; we wanted to be there. I spent several spring breaks out of school helping her clean out her refrigerator and doing work around the house that she was not physically able to do. I believe my parents consistently keeping me around Granny helped me develop my own love and affection for her where I wanted to serve her in any way that I could.I believe the same goes for us as Christian parents; the more we expose our children to being in the presence of Jesus, the more they will develop their own relationship with him and grow in their love and affection for him.
I cherished my time with my Granny and my hope for Christians is that we cherish our time with Christ. I’ve heard some say, “I don’t have to go to church to be a good Christian or to worship God!” I agree we don’t have to attend a church building to worship God, but I would disagree that we can neglect meeting with the whole church family and be a healthy, Christ-honoring Christian. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.” As Christians we can’t just say I’m going to meet only with Christ and I’m good. In that way, you’re only visiting with part of the body, not the whole thing. When we gather as a church, we are one body, joining together to enjoy Christ and each other. Just as my family gathered together to enjoy the presence of my Granny, that’s what the church is called to do as a family, gather to enjoy the presence of Jesus, together! It shouldn’t be out of obligation or duty, but upon knowing who Christ is and what he has done for us, our hearts should long to be with him, to enjoy him. In the same way we are called to enjoy our family and share life with them in the context of the church gathering; after all, together we all make the body whole!
I’ve experienced the pressure of obligatory church attendance. I’ve heard many pastors butcher Hebrews 10:25. They paraphrase it by saying, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together!” I always thought that was the complete verse until I got older and studied it for myself. But they would say things like, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together….Now be here Sunday night and Wednesday night and be sure to be here Tuesday for this program and Thursday for another program, and our special dinner on Saturday….forsake not the assembling!” I had one pastor who told us to plan our vacations around Sunday so we didn’t forsake the assembling! Let me correct this poor handling of this scripture. Do I believe we should be faithful attendees to church? Absolutely! Do I believe it should be out of pressure or obligation? Absolutely not! I also don’t believe the church should feel as if they can over program their church and expect families to be at every program and when they don’t show up to every program, guilt them with a portion of a verse that says, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together….” If you’re attending church out of obligation, you’re attending for someone else and not out of your own admiration, worship, and joy for Jesus. I desire that Christians get to the place where they want to visit with Jesus and the whole church family
Hebrews 10:25, should actually be read as Hebrews 10:19-25 ESV, but for my post vs 24-25 will suffice: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” What is the writer encouraging? He is encouraging a committed, consistent, and faithful gathering together to worship Jesus as a church family. The practice then was, as it is now, to meet together the first day of the week (Sunday) for a church service. The first day of the week has been set aside since the resurrection as a day of rest and worship. Does this mean you cannot miss a service? No. It doesn’t say that. It says “as is the habit of some.” The keyword is “habit“. There were some Christians as this was being written (and Christians today are the same way) that were not in the habit or had gotten out of the habit of meeting together for worship consistently; but it went further than just gathering together to worship; this is spelled out for us in verse 24-25 when he says, “let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works” “encouraging one another” as the last day draws near. I desire to see Christians want to gather together first to enjoy the presence of Jesus, because he is worthy and deserving of our love, affection, and attention. Your desire to be with Jesus will only grow out of your love for Jesus; your love for Jesus will only grow by spending time with him and discovering more of who he is. But I desire so much more for Christians. I desire that they would want to gather together because we are family and our gathering is not just about us, but rather it’s about our brothers and sisters in Christ who need our spurring on to love and good works and who need our encouragement. In return, we need their spurring on to love and good works, as well as their encouragement. Just as our love for Christ will grow the more we are in his presence, our love for one another will grow the more we are in each others’ presence.
I loved my Granny, so I wanted to be with her. I wanted to be with my aunts, uncles, and cousins as well. I love Jesus and I want to weekly visit with him, as well as with my brothers and sisters in Christ. If you’re a veteran Christian who gets this, my encouragement would be to stick with it and don’t lose heart, don’t get out of the habit. If you’re a newer Christian who maybe attends your church once-a-month or once every three weeks, or less, my encouragement to you would be to start developing a habit of visiting with Jesus and your Christian family consistently and not to neglect this gathering together. You’ll fall deeper in love with Jesus the more you’re in his presence. You’ll grow deeper in your understanding of Jesus and you’ll grow in your faith. The deeper you fall in love with Jesus the more you’ll fall in love with your Christian family; it’s like a domino effect, one leads to the other.
Join the Conversation….What encouragement do you get from consistently meeting with Jesus and your church family?