In a meeting with our church session and deacons, the leaders of our church asked me to blog on the subject of our moral obligation to attend church. And so, with that directive, here we go. I intend to write a series of posts on the subject, covering several dimensions of this essential subject.
In our church (and I presume in many other churches as well), members take public vows before God whereby they enter into a solemn covenant with the other members of the local church, obligating themselves to certain duties that both honor God and benefit the Body of Christ. By affirming these vows, we all make an oath to be faithful to our word and loyal to the very church that Christ purchased with His blood. This is no mere ceremony. Our membership vows include these promises:
To diligently make use of the means God has provided for growth in your Christian life, such as, regular Bible study and reading, prayer, fellowship, church attendance and the Lord’s Supper…. To support this congregation by your prayers, attendance, giving and labor…”
Membership vows are an indication of humble submission to the legitimate authority of the church over certain aspects of our lives and recognition that, having become a part of something that is larger than each individual, there are certain things that supersede our own personal preferences or convenience.
Moreover, our church constitution, under the heading of “Expectation of Members,” says:
Members of GCPC shall devote themselves to both the private and public means of grace including the regular attendance of all appointed church services (e.g., Sunday School and Worship Services), fellowship meetings, special meetings or conferences…
Again, the membership vows include this commitment:
To submit yourself to the discipline of this church and its elders, as the Scriptures require, and as expressed in the church constitution…
King David, in writing about the character of those who may dwell with the Lord, asked this question in Psalm 15: “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?” Part of the answer he provides is found in verse 4: “He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.”
The decision to attend church is made one time; not weekly. When we join ourselves to the Body of Christ we declare that decision. Church attendance is part of who we are, not simply something we do.
And so, we begin this discussion with a reminder that we have, by becoming members of a church, obligated ourselves by our own words and public vows to regularly attend the appointed meetings of the church (meetings appointed by the elders, who are the legitimate overseers and shepherds of the church). To neglect this duty is to not keep our word. Sometimes this is an indication of open disobedience and rebellion (i.e., “no one is going to tell me what to do.”), and sometimes it is simply a matter of laziness, sloppiness, or selfishness.