24 And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, 25 Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching. Ė Hebrews 10:24-25 AMP
Do not forsake to assemble together as believers. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this in my walk with the Lord. The early church never passed up an opportunity to gather together. They would met every day in the temple and even gather together in each otherís homes as the church grew by leaps and bounds (Acts 2). They were united in purpose and in mind. But several years later, when Paul appeared on the international scene, things had started to change. Believers were not united. In Corinth, immorality was in the church and fellow believers were filing lawsuits against each other (1 Corinthians 5 and 6). Paul quickly offered correction of these errors in Christian living and even gave guidelines for expulsion of church members. He even went so far as to say that we shouldnít even eat meals with professed Christians who were not living godly lives (1 Corinthians 5:11). In knowing this information, why do Christians put themselves into situations of entire assemblies where there is little or no evidence of godly behavior? It happens many times because Christians are afraid of forsaking the assembly.
Have you ever had anyone try to sell you their church? Marlo and I have. Weíve heard stories about glorious building plans and how God continues to grow a given congregation. We hear about the young, energetic pastor who puts the Bible in a fresh and new perspective. We hear about the abundance of young families and how large the youth group is. We hear about the appeal and effectiveness of their thriving small group program. But we rarely have heard about Godís presence. We have never been told about how the congregation never compromises Godís Word. We are not given insight as to whether such a large youth group will have a godly or ungodly impact on the lives of our children. Is that not what really matters? Is that not what the assembly is about?
Very often Christians become so focused on their assembly that they actually forget the purpose of their assembly. The purpose of believers assembling together is to encourage but also warn each other. It is to watch out for each other. It is to stir our fellow believers up for helpful deeds and noble activities. Now churches have by no means missed the mark on deeds and activities. Churches plan international mission trips, collect food for victims of natural disasters, and hold events to reach the unsaved family down the street. But in all their trips and food drives they fail to provide food, shelter, and clothing for the homeless people living in the woods two blocks from the cross on their shiny new building. And in all their attempts to reach unsaved families, they lose several inside the church who simply didnít get the continuous care they so desperately wanted and needed.
But families cannot leave the church. If they do, they are in direct opposition to Godís Word. They are compromising, right? Nope. There are assemblies all over the place that should be forsaken. If the pastor contradicts Scripture from the pulpit, heís a false teacher, and the assembly he leads should be forsaken. If you discover that the thriving small group program is nothing more than cliques splitting the church apart, it is time to forsake the assembly. And if you find your child turning away from you and more and more toward their youth pastor, thereís a chance that the youth pastor is usurping your parental authority and you better forsake the assembly as fast as you can.
The truth about the matter is that no church is perfect. But they are not supposed to be. Churches are a place for broken and hurting people to come and seek the God they have never known. But churches are also a place for seasoned believers. These long time Christians should be there to encourage new believers, but also warn them of the importance of living a godly life. Long time believers should be ecstatic of such opportunities placed before them. But many times it is only the new believer who has any enthusiasm. And the seasoned Christian looks at them, laughs, and says things like I remember when I used to be like that. They may be at church, but they lost sight of their role in the assembly long ago.
So who are you? Are you the new believer needing growth and encouragement in your new relationship with Christ but are not receiving it at church? Are you the father looking at your family knowing that your current assembly is missing something? Are you the seasoned Christian doing nothing to help stir up the body of believers? Are you the compromising pastor more worried about members being connected in the assembly than living out an example before them? Whatever the case, you or someone around you may soon be forsaking the assembly.