In Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, the theme of land is prominent. This might be surprising at first glance, especially in a day where booming urban centers remind us that we can fit a lot of people into a relatively small piece of land. God chose Abraham and promised to turn his descendants into a great nation. He then promised Abraham land that would be given to that nation. In all of these promises God was not merely promising Israel physical space. He was promising them a place in this world. It is one thing to know that there is a space for you; it is another thing to know that there is a place for you.
When we gather as the body of Christ we are not merely congregating on a piece of land, or in a certain space. We are coming together in a way that offers place to each and every individual member of the body. If the point were simply to gather in a space then each of us would be able to measure our discipleship by tracking our attendance. But again, when we assemble we are not just gathering together, we are being put together.
We are instructed to make sure that we do not forsake this practice of assembling ourselves in the book of Hebrews (see 10:25). When we read the instruction to not forsake assembling ourselves together we immediately hear a sort of parenthetical statement, “as is the manner of some” (v. 25). Evidently even in first century Christianity some believers were known to not take corporate gathering very seriously. When we neglect this biblical instruction to gather together we are not just being disobedient, we are hurting ourselves and others.
In our individualistic and relativistic culture it might sound harsh to take the commandment to gather together so seriously. But we do not gather to satisfy a rule. We gather in order to “stir up love and good works” (v. 24). If I do not gather together with the rest of the body of Christ I will soon find a deficit of both love and good works in my life. That is a loss for me personally. But it is also a loss for the rest of the body, because they will have never been able to experience the love and good works that God would have developed in me if I had been assembled into the body of Christ.
This applies not only to Sunday morning, but also to the smaller, more personal gatherings that happen throughout the week. Some groups gather for prayer, some for bible study, some for learning about specific topics, some for fellowship and some to pursue interests and hobbies together. Whether or not the gathering appears to be overtly spiritual all of our gatherings are part of the process by which God fits us into the body of Christ. It is as important today to be assembled with the rest of the body as it has ever been. Do not forsake it. And encourage others to do the same.
I know that I have been talking about going to church a lot lately. Just last week I hinted at it here, and directly stated it here. I know that my exhortation on this subject might be met with a good bit of suspicion. After all, I am a pastor on staff at a church, and some people feel that pastors at churches are always hounding people about attending church (and not always with pure motives). However, I cannot let this subject go.
Most Christians believe that it is good to go to church and bad to not go to church, at least as a general rule. Yet many have quit going to church for various reasons. At the risk of sounding cryptic or apocalyptic or hyper-spiritual or just plain weird, let me say this. I believe that we are entering into a time when everyone will need to have a vital connection to the body of Christ in order to sustain themselves. And at the risk of sounding preachy or old-school or legalistic or just plain weird, let me say this. S.M.O. (Sunday morning only) Christianity will not be enough. If you struggle to even attend that one larger, weekly gathering you still have a long way to go in finding the type of vital relationship to the body that you need.
I have said it before and I will say it again. You need the body and the body needs you. There are no vestigial organs in the Body of Christ. You have a place, and the body cannot fully function without you. Do whatever you have to do to find your place. Drive however far you need to drive to be in the church to which you are called. Move if necessary. I’m not kidding. It is time. If you are misplaced consider these two aspects of your position: (1) you are not where you are suppose to be, and (2) you are occupying a place that is intended for someone else. If you refuse to be placed by God then you will eventually get replaced in the place where you are suppose to be, and displaced from the place that you occupy. Today is the day of placement. But the days of displacement and replacement will soon be upon us. So do whatever you need to do to become a vital member of the Body of Christ. And do that today.