Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The devil has been working to keep people from coming to church at least since the 1st Century. That’s all the more significant when we remember that there weren’t dedicated church buildings until the 3rd or 4th Century. It’s not that the place is significant, it’s the gathering itself. Some people in the US, at least, are giving up on the “organized Church,” but that’s not necessarily in violation of this verse. The point is that we need each other. Christ is in every believer by His Spirit, but He is in us to a far greater degree when we are gathered. We tend to think of ourselves in isolation, but I’m not sure God ever does. He certainly cares about us individually, to the point of caring how many hairs we have on our heads, (Matthew 10:30) but He sees us in the over-all picture, and how we relate to one another. When we fail to recognize our individual responsibility and accountability before God, or the fact that we are part of an organism and are not independent and unrelated, we lose out either way. American society tends to over-emphasize the individual and Japanese society tends to over-emphasize the group. Either is a problem! We need to realize that we are individually and uniquely created and loved by God so that we may relate rightly and well to one another. Often a local church is something of a “gem tumbler.” causing us to knock against each other until we are smooth and polished. That isn’t always fun, but the results are beautiful. We need to recognize our need for that and not shy away from it.
Over the years various people have distanced themselves from this church for various reasons, and we have all suffered for it. As the pastor I have sometimes been the reason they’ve left! I grieve and I seek reconciliation, but I cannot let myself get hung up on that. I am to be faithful with those I have been given and recognize on all levels that they are God’s sheep rather than mine, and I am to be active in drawing more into the Family of God. I am to train the believers to lift their eyes off of themselves and fix them first on Jesus, so that they may then be able really to see the people around them: those in the Body of Christ as their brothers and sisters, and those outside the Body as people in need of salvation. I find that self-centeredness is a major obstacle to receiving the blessings God has prepared and intends for us in every area. I need to teach, encourage, and admonish, in all love, gentleness, and strength, using God’s wisdom and not my own, so that the Body of Christ may be built up for His glory.
Father, we are one fewer in this church as of yesterday. It was a shock to be the one to discover his body when I went to pick him up to bring him to the service, but it was Your grace and mercy that it was his brother in Christ and not some stranger who found him. He will be missed indeed, though he himself probably thought he contributed little to the church. I ask for the comfort of Your Spirit for each of us who are his family in Christ, and I ask for wisdom in all the decisions and actions of the next several days. You know what we need to do far better than I do! May his wake and memorial service be powerful in communicating Christ to his neighbors, so that he may have fruit even in his death, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!