Over the last few posts we’ve been looking at spiritual growth strategies not only for new Christians but for all Christians. To do this, we’ve taken the examples of the very first Christians and the things they did as found in Acts 2:42-47. We’ve already given thought to their devotion to the apostles’ teachings, their devotion to prayer, and their devotion to the fellowship; but we’re not finished yet. These early Christians also devoted themselves to the “breaking of bread” and “praising God”. This phrase “breaking of bread” was a common first century Christian way of referring to what we call communion or the Lord’s Supper. As we put “breaking of bread” together with “praising God” it becomes clear that the first Christians of Acts 2 gave attention to regularly worshipping God together.
Growing Christians today, whether new or “seasoned”, likewise need to develop and practice a habit of regular worship attendance. Why? Well, let’s give some thought to what assembled worship is for. When we do, I think it will become clearer how much of an advantage coming to church is to our spiritual life.
Our assemblies include singing and God’s word tells us that our hymns are not only to praise the Lord, but also ”teach and admonish one another” (Col. 3:16). Singing in worship, when we pay attention, teaches us things we need to know, reminds us of things we need to remember, and encourages us to continue on through trying times. The song you sing, regardless of how good or bad you think you are at it, encourages us all.
Our assemblies include preaching. Paul reminded Timothy of the importance of the preaching to the church, when he wrote, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:2, 3). The purpose of preaching is to instruct the church in the truth and encourage us all to be faithful to the Lord.
Our assemblies include communion. This is a central part of our assemblies on the Lord’s Day and it is a key to spiritual growth, because it is not only a time of reflection and meditation on what the Lord has done to redeem us (1 Cor. 11:17ff), but is also a time of to remember that we are in fellowship and are not in this thing alone (1 Cor. 10:16,17). Your participation in communion reminds me that I am your brother and that you are mine, because of our common Savior.
Our assemblies include prayer, and although my personal prayer is effective, the prayer of the whole church is said to be especially effective (Acts 4:31). In prayer together, we share in bringing our concerns, our requests, our thanksgivings, and our praise together to God.
Our assemblies are also about giving. Giving together with the rest of the church, once again, helps build camaraderie, fellowship, and communion through common participation in the work of the church.
Lastly, our assemblies are about fellowship and common encouragement. The Hebrew writer tells us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking 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.” (Hebrews 10:23-25).
Strengthening, encouragement, support, knowledge, help reminders, etc. are all part of how we are helped through the assembly. Clearly, there is a scriptural cause and effect relationship between strong attendance and strong Christianity; it is not a coincidence. It is not so much that stronger Christians go to all the worship services and Bible studies of the church, as much as it is that Christians that go to all the worship services and Bible studies of the church become stronger.