by Phillip Vanwinkle
MARCH 31, 2017

Why I Attend Every Meeting of the Lord's Church

Yes! There are actual legitimate reasons I attend every time the church gathers for worship. In every congregation there is a group of people who are known as the “Sunday Morning Crowd.” They are there with smiling faces and hugs to give out. While they are there they encourage the rest of the people, and really try to be involved in what is happening that particular Sunday morning.

Some have asked me why it is that the Sunday morning attendance is so large, while the Sunday evening and Wednesday evening attendance is so small. There may be many reasons why this is the case. This series of lessons is not going to list every single reason why others may not attend every single meeting of the Lord’s church; I simply want to explain why it is that I attend every time the doors are open.

First, I need to dispel this thought: “Well, you are the preacher, that's why.” I am a preacher, but I did not just start attending each service when I became a preacher. I have attended every single service (with few interruptions, sickness, emergencies, etc.) since I became a child of God. But the first reason I attend every single service is this:

It is a picture of thankfulness to God for gathering His people together after having been enslaved.

Imagine, if you will, living as a slave. Each day you wake up, and you are forced to do heavy work for your master. The work is not for you, and it does not help you in any way whatsoever. As a slave, you are bound to your master for life. You cannot escape, and you cannot buy your way out of your situation. Each day you simply serve your master, doing his bidding. You don't have the freedoms that others have. I used to visit a young man in prison who had grown up in my youth group. After visiting a few times, I asked him what the most difficult part of living was for him. He said, “the fact that I have no freedom here.” He went on to express his desire to simply walk outside and feel the grass on his feet, the wind in his hair, to shoot a basketball… but he had to give these up, and live as a prisoner.

Now, imagine that while you are living as a prisoner, as a slave, someone comes along and pays for your freedom. He buys you back (redeems you), and sets you free. How thankful would you be? You are now free to feel the grass on your feet any time that you wish, you may pick up a basketball any time of the day, and play a round of H.O.R.S.E.

In a way, this is my story, and yours too if you are a Christian. God has paid the price by giving Christ. I was helplessly lost in sin. I was a slave, and a prisoner of Satan. I was working for him, and all that I did then was under his cruel and punishing hand. Yet, because of Christ, I am redeemed—I have been bought back. My freedom has been restored. So, when I think of everything that Christ has done for me, how can I not want to be with Him?

The simple Bible truth is this: When I am in the presence of the church, I am in the very presence of God. God is in His people, and by my attending every gathering of the saints for worship, I am showing my thankfulness to Him for redeeming me.

As a fourth-generation Gospel preacher, I have been blessed to be able to talk to both my father and my grandfather about certain situations. One such situation is church attendance. I have heard both of them say to me, “Phillip, you can preach on the importance of church attendance every Sunday of the year. But church attendance is not the real problem; a failure to attend each worship service is a symptom of a much bigger problem. The heart of the problem is that people don’t truly love God. And they are no longer thankful for His redeeming blood.”

When I first got out of preaching school and began preaching, I did preach numerous times on “the importance of church attendance.” And nothing ever changed. The same people who came out and shook my hand and told me “Good sermon, brother Phillip” were the same people who didn’t bother to show up that Sunday night, nor the following Wednesday night. Why? Because church attendance wasn’t the problem—lack of love and thankfulness to God was.

There is a picture that is painted in Psalm 116 of a man who understood what it meant to truly serve the Lord:

I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.
Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted:
I said in my haste, All men are liars.
What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?
I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.
I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.
I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.
In the courts of the LORD's house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.

You will notice that verse 12 is in bold, and there is a reason for that. God had done so much good for the psalmist. He had done all that He could to set him free, to give him encouragement. In fact, the psalmist owes everything to his God.

He then essentially says "Because of You, I want You to see that I do owe you something. I can render my faithfulness to You." He says, “I will pay my vows to you.” That is, in everything he had vowed to do, he would stand by his vows and be faithful to them. And in showing his faithfulness to God, everyone would see his faithfulness. “In the presence of all his people” is mentioned twice here (verses 14 and 18).

It is important that God’s people know that they can depend on the psalmist to be faithful to the Lord. But then, he goes one step further to get to the heart of the matter. In verse 19, he says In the courts of the LORD's house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.

The psalmist essentially says, "God, because You have set me free, because You have done so much for me, I will:

  1. Keep my vows, and show my faithfulness to You in front of everyone, so that they will know that I can be counted on to be where God wants me to be, and who God wants me to be.
  2. Praise You in the courts of the Lord’s house in front of the whole city.

Part of being faithful to the Lord is showing up to worship Him every opportunity that we have. Part of "rendering to the Lord" thanksgiving for all He does for us is the fact that I have made the vow to Him to always be where He wants me to be.

So, the first reason that I attend every single time that the church meets together, is because I am keeping my vow to Him, showing Him with my actions the great love and thankfulness that I feel for everything that He has done, and continues to do for me.

Judgment Based Upon Obedience

A second reason (in no particular order) that I choose to attend worship every single time that the church assembles is because I will be judged on whether I obeyed God or not.

Many people who habitually "skip church" on Sunday evening and/or Wednesday evening usually do so because they feel it is in the realm of choice. They treat worship attendance the same way they would any "good suggestion," as if it were a suggestion that they are free to accept or reject with no real consequence.

In discussions with these members, some will respond, “Show me where the Bible says I must be at every assembly of the Lord’s church.” To which I will reply, “Let's look into that for a moment.” We learn much from the book of Hebrews.  The Hebrews writer was writing to people who were leaving Christ and returning to Judaism. One reason they were forsaking Christ and returning to their old ways was because they had stopped studying and listening to God (see Hebrews 5:12-14; and Hebrews 2:1).

Another reason that they were falling away is because some had begun to drift away from the fellowship of the saints. So he warns them in Hebrews 10:23-25;

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Verse 23 encourages the Christians to hold fast to the profession of faith with wavering. Then he says that part of Christian living is to provoke one another to love and good works. He then goes forward to say that the way this is done is by assembling together at every opportunity.

He is saying that there are some who forsake the assembly, and by forsaking the assembly they do not encourage others, and they do harm to the "profession of faith." Then he makes it clear that if they continue in this lifestyle, it will result in a complete drifting away, back to their previous lives where there can be found no forgiveness of sin (see verse 26).

I understand fully that the warning is about a complete drifting away from Christ, and yet, I also understand that a drifting away does not happen all at once. It begins with a soul simply taking himself away from assembling together with the saints, whenever they assemble together.

I understand, having been a missionary, that not every place in the world even has a Sunday evening service. Some on this side of the world will then argue, “Since Christians on the other side of the world do not worship on Sunday evening, and they are OK, then I too can not worship on Sunday Night, and it will be OK.”

There is a huge problem with this way of thinking. It undermines autonomy and authority. Each congregation is autonomous, that is, their leaders decide what is best for each individual congregation. One congregation does not decide for another congregation what they will do.

Each congregation has their own leadership, and those leaders have decided that for their congregation, they will meet only once per Sunday. In many places, that meeting lasts 3 to 4 hours. There are numerous reasons that a leadership could decide to meet only once per Sunday. This article will not get into that discussion.

What is my job? Each individual of a specific congregation is under the oversight of the leadership of that congregation. Each individual, then, is commanded by God to obey and submit to the leadership of the local congregation of which they are members. Paul says in Romans 13:1-2:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

While we understand that this passage is specifically talking about the government, the principles are the same in the authority of God’s church. We are not to resist the authority of the leadership of the church, but we are to humbly submit.

More specifically to the point, the Hebrews writer writing to Christians says:

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Notice what it says: The church's leaders are responsible for your soul. And since they have responsibility for your soul, they have authority to expect you to follow them, as they follow Christ. Also notice that my role is to simply obey—to submit to them—so that it causes them joy to be responsible for me. I will give an account for my actions (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

When the leadership says we will be meeting 3 times this week for the purpose of Bible study, worship, encouragement, etc., then those times are to be followed. If I am to be faithful to Christ, then I am to be faithful to the leadership of the church. If the leadership says we will meet once on Sunday, or if they say we will meet every single day, my job is to obey those who have rule over me, to submit to their leadership, and to be there when I am expected to be there.

How can I say I will submit to Christ whom I have not seen, when I refuse to submit to His leaders, whom I have seen?