“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.”
September 20 is National Back to Church Sunday. The day is significant in a few respects. For one, as the official start of the fall season, people are back from vacations, school is in session and things, in general, get ramped up— hence back to church. For us at ICC, this also includes the start-up of life groups and classes, which are designed to help people go even deeper with God and one another. But there’s another aspect of this coming Sunday that I believe has more significance this year than any other. As we are now able to meet again, even with all the inconvenient protocols— we should indeed do just that.
How much more significant is Back to Church this year, having spent months of not being able to meet?
The above verse comes from the book of Hebrews. When it was written, some believers stopped attending worship services for fear of persecution. It is commonly believed Hebrews was written to Jewish believers in Rome, who were suffering greatly under Nero. Yet the letter encouraged them to persevere! God said, in essence, “there will be suffering, but it is my desire that you keep meeting.” To that end, commentators say “It is the duty of saints to assemble together for public worship, on the account of God, who has appointed it, who approves of it, and whose glory is concerned in it; and on the account of the saints themselves, that they may be delighted, refreshed, comforted, instructed, edified, and perfected; and on account of others, that they may be convinced, converted, and brought to the knowledge and faith of Christ.” I’d say that is a compelling reason to meet as a church!
But there’s more.
The preceding verse (24) is a command to consider one another to stir us to love and good works. When coupled with verse 25, two contrasting thoughts become clear: “not forsaking”, but “encouraging.” In other words, in order to encourage one another, we should not forsake meeting together. Make sense?
We might not be suffering persecution like those early Christians in Rome (at least not yet), but there is much healing needed in this world— even amongst believers. We’ve been tested and challenged collectively and personally as never before. And we need each other more than ever. This is our time to not only get ourselves back to church but to bring others.
Join me in praying for just one person you could invite to church this Sunday. After all, as the writer of Hebrews states, all the more as we see the Day drawing near!
Pastor Joe Garofalo