19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19-25).
I have been thinking a lot about the local church lately—partly because I have been teaching on it and partly because I am fascinated by what the New Testament has to say about it. In Nicaragua, I had the privilege of teaching pastors on Biblical church discipline—the practice of caring for the souls of the congregation—the NT’s emphasis on church discipline tells us that God has designed the local church to be a testimony of God’s grace to the world and its members to exercise genuine care and watchfulness over each other’s souls.
There is absolutely nothing like the local church. The church universal is God’s global display of his life transforming grace. The church local is one of the most profound experiences of that grace this side of eternity.
Hebrews 10 informs us of the value of the local church–it is the training ground for the age to come. In the local church, God’s people are to “stir one another up to love and good works . . . all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (vv24-25).
If the local church is the believer’s training ground in which to prepare for the Lord’s return, we ought to think very carefully about how we “do life” together in the church. A huge part of doing life together as the church local is simply showing up. The writer of Hebrews says one of the ways we stir one another up to love and good works is by “not neglecting to meet together.” Apparently meeting together is one of the primary ways in which we prepare for the age to come. If that is true—we ought to make every effort to get the most out of our corporate worship as a local church and give the most to those who gather with us.
Given the value of the local church and the command to stir one another up, I have been thinking about how we can make the most of our Sunday morning gatherings. With that in mind, I came up with four suggestions as to how we might do that:
- Come to Church. Seriously—I know this sounds silly but if you are not here regularly, its very difficult to encourage and build up the body as the NT commands us to (Heb. 10:24-25; 1 Thess. 5:11; 1 Cor. 12:13-30).
- Sing—sing and sing loudly! No one is going to fault you for your lack of pitch—even if you can’t sing well, when others hear you sing, they will hear you singing God’s praises and rejoice and sing along with you. I have found when I sing loudly, other people sing louder, perhaps out of desire to drown out my poor vocals, but nonetheless our singing should have a corporate feel to it as the Bible commands us both to sing to God and to each other (Eph. 5:19)!
- Talk to people—its difficult to “stir each other up” when we are mere spectators at church and are not utilizing this time to build relationships. Some of my very best friends are members of our church, but sometimes I have to make a point not to spend all my time talking to them at church. At church, I want to make a point to talk to people who I do not know as well. Those who I am very close to will still be my friend if I don’t spend all my time at church talking to them and there are many wonderful, mutually encouraging relationships that can be built in our church if we will just step out of our comfort zone and talk to the people we don’t know as well. Our church is small but just big enough for folks to fall in the cracks and miss out on mutually encouraging relationships. Be intentional in your communication with people when we gather for corporate worship. Instead of blaming others for their lack of interaction with you—why not seek them out. You will only get out of church what you are willing to put into it.
- Make a point to let your fellowship extend beyond our corporate gatherings—as valuable as it is for us to meet together on Sunday morning, it is not enough. We are to continually be encouraging one another and building one another up—that means our relationships ought to extend beyond what the settings that the local church provides. Sign up for a community group and make a point to eat with people in our church to do fun things with them—make plans to go to a football game or to have lunch, go run, walk, or bicycle, play games together, it doesn’t matter what it is, but build relationships! Invite a family you don’t know over for dinner—it may be awkward asking them because you don’t know them that well, but God will bless it because he promises to bless our obedience with His grace!