The psalmist declares, "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord!'" (Ps. 122:1; emphasis mine). Worldly distractions, bad theology, or indwelling sin can cause us to lose sight of why we should be glad about meeting together on the Lord's Day. We might even start to think private devotions are an adequate substitute for, if not superior to, gathering with the church.
Of course, both private and corporate worship are vital to our relationship with God. But there are reasons the writer of Hebrews admonishes us not to follow "the habit of some" by neglecting to meet together (Heb. 10:25). Here are eight of them:
Obedience to God's Word
While Hebrews 10:25 directly states that we must not neglect meeting together, Paul's repeated use of the phrase "when you come together" in 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 indicates that the Corinthians were assembling regularly. He often refers to the church in so-and-so's house, and we can assume he did not mean the "church" as a physical structure but rather the people who regularly met in that house.
The Spirit Working Through Others
We should be able to encourage ourselves in the Lord through Bible study, prayer, and worship in song. But God ordains strengthening to come through others as well. "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you'" (1 Cor. 12:21). No one has every gift. God cannot build me up through gifts like preaching, encouragement, compassion, leadership, and faith unless I'm actually there to experience those gifts.
Serving in Action and Attitude
When I sing to God, pray, or read Scripture alone, I bless myself. When I do those things with others, I can be a means of God's varied grace to them (1 Peter 4:10). My countenance and enthusiastic engagement, as well as the deployment of my spiritual gifts, are all ways I can point people to the worthiness of the God we worship. Colossians 3:16 tells us that singing is one of the ways we teach and admonish each other. That requires doing more than singing along to my iPod.
Manifestations of God's Presence
In the middle of adjusting the Corinthians' love affair with certain spiritual gifts, Paul notes how these gifts can alert an unbeliever to God's presence. David Peterson writes, "1 Cor. 14:24–25 suggests that God is present in a distinctive way in the Christian meeting through his word and the operation of his Spirit" (Engaging with God, 196). Without making experiential encounters with God our primary goal, we should expect God to make us more aware of His presence with us when we meet together.
God's Voice Through Preaching
Technology now enables us to hear sermons we missed or messages from churches we don't even attend. But when the church gathers expectantly in one place at one time to hear God's Word proclaimed, it is a unique event. God Himself addresses us as His people. The Spirit works in our hearts to convict, comfort, illumine, and exhort. We hear God's voice through a human mouthpiece and are changed.
Demonstrating Unity in the Gospel
Being one in Christ is more than meeting regularly in the same room, but it is not less. Singing songs, reciting creeds, and reading Scripture together are ways of declaring to myself and others that I am part of a holy temple, not just a random brick or a loose stone (Eph. 2:19–22). "Christian proclamation might make the gospel audible, but Christians living together in local congregations make the gospel visible (see John 13:34–35)" (Mark Dever, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible, p. xi).
Dying to Self
Let's face it—it's easier to worship God alone than with others. Church meetings introduce many aggravations, such as insufficient parking, people taking my seat, obnoxious voices, songs I don't prefer, and people with problems. But this makes such meetings ideal opportunities for cultivating the humble attitude of Christ (Phil. 2:1–5) and dying to ourselves.
Foretastes of Heaven
Want to know what heaven is going to be like? Go to church. The singing may not be as stellar, the numbers might be drastically reduced, and the people might all come from the same ethnicity. But Hebrews 12 says we have already come to "the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant" (vv. 22–24). Jesus has brought us near to the Father through His finished atoning work on Calvary. We can draw near with boldness to the throne of grace with His people (Heb. 10:19–22). That's heaven.
So, the next time you're tempted to think cutting out on a Sunday meeting will not hurt, remember what you will be missing. And thank God you have both the privilege and freedom to enjoy corporate worship with the body of Christ each week.