Gospel Communities | Together Frequently 1.1 | Together in the Temple
“And all who believed were together… attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes…”
The first place we see the early believers frequently together was in the temple. This was their place of public corporate worship, which for us would be our weekly gathering at church on Sunday.
Attendance of our weekly gathering should be a regular rhythm for members of our gospel communities. While of course medical emergencies, illness, occasional family vacations, or other unexpected events will keep us from attending every single week, timely attendance on Sunday mornings must be prioritized. In accordance, there should be accountability over this attendance – not in a creepy religious way, but in a friendly, concerned way: “Hey John Doe, I noticed it’s been a few weeks since we’ve seen you on Sunday. Is everything ok? We miss worshipping with you on Sunday mornings and I just wanted to check in.”
There was once a time (and this is likely still the case for some people) when church attendance was perceived to be equated with a certain level of godliness. We thought that never missing a Sunday was the hallmark of a good, obedient Christian, and any time we missed the gathering God was upset with us. Sometimes, in a poor attempt to keep one another accountable, we would subtly shame those who missed with passive aggressive questions (“What did you think of service? Ohhhh that’s right, you weren’t there…”) and comments (“You missed the BEST sermon on Sunday. It was the most incredible time of worship. Too bad you weren’t there…”) about the Sunday that was missed. Obviously, this is not helpful at all. Shame over missing a Sunday should not exist or be named among us. It is faith in Christ alone as our salvation that makes us just and holy before God, and nothing else. No righteous works, no attendance or lack of attendance, can change his love for us. The grace and love of God does not depend on whether or not we are present on a Sunday morning.
However, presently (in the western church) the pendulum has swung to the other side of the spectrum. Most of us know that our attendance (and timeliness) on a Sunday morning does not change the love God has for us. Most of us also have a healthy understanding of the fact that being the church does not just happen for two hours on a Sunday morning, indeed it cannot. Our lives are too complex and our sin is too deep to be dealt with on Sunday morning with a sermon and six worship songs. This is why we have gospel communities that have gatherings throughout the week, which are to serve as catalysts for more meeting, encouragement, and prayer to happen, organically and unfacilitated by the church, as needed throughout each community. Unfortunately, our knowledge of these truths can be twisted into believing that gathering on Sunday morning is not important: since “church” is to happen every day throughout the week, what’s so bad about missing Sunday?
There are many answers to this pressing question, and there are also frequent commandments throughout Scripture that instruct on and imply a corporate worship gathering. For our purposes, we will focus on the joy to be found in this exercise, the delight that follows the discipline. We won’t always feel like coming on Sunday morning. Long weeks, crushing deadlines, relational strife, and the continual struggle of simply existing in a broken world can lead us all to believe that sitting down at a brunch or on our couch for the game would be a better use of our Sunday morning. In spite of this temptation, what is deeper and truer is the Spirit-filled joy of gathering as the saints of God. There is a supernatural power in sitting under the Word corporately. The tangible presence of God is felt in the room as we are all engaged in worshipping our Lord. When we see our brothers and sisters, from the newborn to the gray, we are stirred up and encouraged to pray for and love one another. Certainly, there is strife, disagreement, and awkwardness on a Sunday morning as well, but the underlying truth, the deeper reality, is that it is good and pleasant when we dwell in unity (Psalm 133), persisting in the faith and encouraging one another with handshakes, hugs, and truth as we come in, recovering from the week behind and preparing ourselves, in mind, heart, and spirit, to honor God in facing the week ahead.