“…and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (rf. Mk. 12:30).
For those of you who are reading this article and are married, imagine for a moment if your commitment to your mate were the very same as that of your evident commitment to the Lord as shown by your church attendance, what would the present status of your marriage relationship be? Having just completed a master’s degree in counseling with an emphasis in marriage and family, I can tell you that any couple who do not spend quality time conversing about the substantive issues of their relationship put their marriage in jeopardy. The marriage relationship needs, indeed, requires both husband and wife to set aside blocks of time (not just date nights, but consistent brackets of time during the week as well as time away from home, just the two of them) to learn what makes the other “tick” so as to correctly prioritize the other’s needs as first under God (rf. Eph. 5:22-33). In so doing, our marriages fulfill the Lord’s expectation of them as earthly reflections of the relationship between Jesus and His Church (rf. Eph. 5:23, 25, 32).
However, just as a marriage relationship cannot grow, mature, and prosper without a couple spending quality time together, so the same holds true for the relationship between Christians and the local church. There can be little or no real spiritual growth and fellowship apart from the mutual encouragement that comes from being together as a local church body. It is here that we worship God corporately. It is here that we join together on mission. It is here that we fulfill the command to give our tithes to fund the ongoing work of His kingdom. It is here that we encourage and admonish one another in our growth in the Christian faith. This is why it is to our spiritual detriment to be apart, to allow other things and distractions to keep us from being with the rest of the flock. When we make other activities and items a greater priority than church attendance (e.g. sports activities and events, concerts, weekend outings, etc.), we are, by our actions, stating that these things are more important to us than the worship of God and being with God’s people. Our alternative engagements are stating the real priorities of our lives far louder than what our words could ever say. This is why the writer of Hebrews urges his readers “not (to) forsak(e) our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another;and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (rf. Heb. 10:25, New American Standard Version).
Thus, if your commitment to local church attendance has been slack as of late, be thankful that we serve a merciful God who readily forgives all confessed sin. If we go to Him and sincerely ask His forgiveness for our wrongdoing, He will cleanse us of our iniquities and put us back on the path of true obedience and commitment (rf. I Jn. 1:9). Remember, God takes commitment seriously. Anything less than wholehearted devotion as shown by putting Him first in our lives, disclosed by our attendance to His house for worship and study, is no real devotion at all.