“So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Rom. 12:5
It is sad how many professing Christians think it is of little significance to assemble at a local church, especially on the Lord’s Day, opting rather to “live-stream” the service. Oftentimes, they will use the minutest inconvenience to stay home and “watch” sermons from comfortable sofas. Tragically, they see no harm being done by this practice, either to themselves or to fellow believers. Such thinking, however, is seriously flawed, unbiblical, and in fact, sinful. It is true, that there are some saints too infirmed to attend church services and for health reasons, who need to stay home. However, very few situations (besides illness or other serious issues) ought to hinder the Christian from gathering to worship the Lord. A former pastor of mine would often say: “Unless one is providentially hindered, he or she ought to attend a scheduled church service.”
Nearly one-hundred and fifty years ago, C.H. Spurgeon said:
“Persons go out on Monday to business who cannot go out on Sunday. It is raining on Sunday, and it is very curious how rain on Sunday will keep some people in; their health is so weak, though the same rain on Monday does not affect them at all in that particular way. Have you never observed how some persons appear to be periodically ill on Sundays? That seems to be a favorite day for being ill.”1
In the epistle of Hebrews, the writer exhorted the letters recipients: “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24-25). It is clear by this passage that Christian love for one another should be the catalyst for the church assembling. Moreover, how would it be possible to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds”, if fellowshipping is avoided? There are numerous NT passages that are not direct commands, but allude to why the assembling of the church is essential.
For example, all believing members are gifted differently (Rom. 12:4, 6), and the many members make up one unified body (a local church): so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Rom. 12:5, cf. 1 Cor. 12:14). Also, saints are instructed to use their various gifts to serve one another: “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Pet. 4:10, cf. 1 Cor. 12:7). In his letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul postulates how each member’s gift is equally and necessary, to maintain a unified body of believers:
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body’, it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. (1 Cor. 12:14-20; cf. 14-26).
Not only do all gathered members serve as equal and complete the body of the church, but they commiserate with one another: “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Cor. 12:26, cf. Rom. 12:15). This beautiful and glorious feature of Christ’s church cannot occur when people refrain from gathering. The body suffers disunity, and the church loses pertinent functionality. Correspondingly, the analogy Paul delineated to the Corinthian church [1 Cor. 12:15-26] breaks down and makes no sense.
Furthermore, a local church body encompasses various teaching members critical to its function: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Eph. 4:11-12). Imagine the harm a church would suffer if those gifted to teach, stayed home for insignificant or selfish reasons. Most likely, the less mature believers would succumb to the wiles of Satan and the snares of the world, without such integral watchmen: “That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” (Eph. 4:14).
It’s an evil world in which Christians dwell, so wisdom from leadership or from fellow believers can prove to be beneficial. In fact, Scripture urges older men and women to come alongside those younger in faith, to guide them in their Christian walk (Titus 2:2-5; cf. 1 Jn. 2:13-14). Additionally, Scripture warns against choosing a loner Christian life: “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.” (Prov. 18:1). Moreover, he who isolates himself not only contradicts Scripture, and is detrimental to the function of the church, but also exhibits indifference to Christ. For God did not call a Christian to be an island, to conduct his or her walk privately and disconnected from other believers. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Col. 3:16).
I close with the Apostle Paul’s instructive and sobering words to the Ephesian elders as he departed from them: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28). The church is Jesus Christ’s, He is the head, we [the church] were purchased with a price and are betrothed to Him. (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:22-23; 2 Cor. 11:2). Therefore, it is good for the church to congregate and since Jesus Christ is the head of the church, our priority ought to be to please Him. We please the Lord by obediently coming together and worshipping Him despite the circumstances or consequences.
1 C.H. Spurgeon, Exploring the Mind & Heart of the Prince of Preachers, Kerry Allen, Fox River Press: IL, 2005, 70.