This morning one of my Facebook friends posted an article that prompted quite an interesting discussion. It was on the topic of why people are leaving the church. The author listed her reasons for leaving the church, but I’m sure each person has their own, and is certain they are valid. Whether those reasons are really valid or not, what happens next? Do you find a new church? Do you start a home church? Do you just listen to “church” programs on radio or TV? Do you read blogs on the Internet? If you choose either of the first two options you may simply be moving from the problems of one church to the problems of another. With either of the latter options you miss the fellowship and accountability of other believers.
Hebrews 10:25 is a verse that is often quoted in discussions like these, though not always fully, and often in the words of the King James Version—not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together—which is a good indication of how long that person has been going to traditional churches. It seems to be one of those verses that is quoted like a rule, and the context is not taken into consideration. Even if it were a rule, there would still be a question of how church is defined. Does it count if you have church in a non-traditional location? Does it count if you listen to church on the radio? How often do I have to attend to be okay with God? As I said in my post on tradition, Jesus cares more about the condition of your heart. He only has two rules. 1. Love God. 2. Love others. (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:29-34)
In most translations, Hebrews 10:25 starts in the middle of a sentence, so to look at the context we should go back at least to the beginning of the sentence in Hebrews 10:24. “Let us take thought of”—this actually requires some consideration—“how to spur one another on to love and good works.” Good works are the practical manifestation of love. Love is more than just a feeling; it is an act of showing concern and kindness. This requires interaction, and it requires giving, and this is the reason for the encouragement in Hebrews 10:25 to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.
If church for you is only listening to the radio or TV and does not involve a connection to other believers, it is not enough. Without interaction you do not have the opportunity to give. That is not to say that the interaction and giving has to take place in a traditional church—there are other options—but meeting with other people has its advantages. Yes, challenges too, but communication with other people lets you know that you are not alone in your feelings, questions, doubts, fears or weaknesses. Others offer a different perspective, and can give you a positive point of view when all you can see is the negative. Of course that will take effort on their part, and on yours to return the favour to them.
May I encourage you not to give up on church, and not to have expectations that are too ideal to be met, but to find one where you feel like you can be who you truly are and be accepted despite your imperfections. If you are in one that you are considering leaving, why not give it a second chance? Get to really know a few people, start spurring them on to love and good works and see what happens. If you feel that you really must leave the church you are in, or you have already left, find one that encourages learning, where you are free to ask questions and express doubt, and where people support each other. Where the message that is preached is based on the Word of God and emphasizes love rather than rules. Churches like that do exist. I attend one.