The word of our Lord:
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30).
I met a young woman today while waiting in line at the market. She wore a cross around her neck, and I wondered what that cross meant to her. Was it simply a piece of jewelry? An idol? Or was it an expression of her Christian faith?
When I asked her if she attended a neighborhood church she said that she used to go to a Catholic parish just a block away. “But,” she said, “I’m so busy these days with work, and such, that I don’t really go anymore.” I told her that my cousin goes to the same church. She dropped her eyes, paused for a moment and said, “My work is so busy.”
I make no judgement on this young woman. There are people who do not attend church for health reasons. Others may have a conflicting work schedule. Some just haven’t found the perfect church. J. Vernon McGee used to say if he ever found the perfect church it would stop being perfect once he joined. God does not keep attendance records, and we are not saved by going to church although we are exhorted to not forsake the assembly of the brethren (Hebrews 10:25).
However, fellowship is not limited to a weekly church service. There are many ways to serve the Lord. Home-based Bible study groups are a perfectly acceptable means for worship and praise. Indeed, there are examples in the New Testament where believers met in people’s homes for exhortation and prayer.
When he [Peter] realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who is called Mark, where there were many people gathered in prayer (Acts 12:12).
When they [Paul and Silas] had come out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house where they saw and encouraged the brothers, and then they left (Acts 16:40).
Give greetings to the brothers in Laodicea and to Nympha and to the church in her house (Colossians 4:15).
Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon, our beloved and our co-worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church at your house (Philemon 1: 1-2).
Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes (Acts 2:46).
Granted, the early “church” met in people’s homes for practical reasons. It was not safe for Christians to gather publicly. For example, Peter went to the house of Mary after an angel had freed him from prison. James had just been beheaded, and Peter certainly faced an impending death. When the writer of Hebrews encourages believers to not forsake the assembly it was because many had isolated themselves for fear of execution. Even today it is reported that a Christian is martyred every five minutes, and millions are persecuted worldwide. [Source: Christian Post]
Still, a number of people prefer the intimacy and sense of community that is lacking in a large congregational gathering. That is why many churches offer outreach ministries that serve a specific need within the assembly including home Bible study groups. A neighborhood pastor bemoaned that his parishioners are always grumbling and complaining that their spiritual needs are not being met. He suggested that they start a ministry to meet those needs. Certainly, the Bible gives us a good example of this in Acts 6:1-6 where it is recorded that the assembly had grown so large that the Hellenistic Jews complained that their widows were being neglected. The twelve called upon the brethren to appoint seven reputable men to serve this need. Be mindful that as we serve one another we are serving the Lord (Ro 12:10-11). That really is the essence of the ecclesia:
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27).
The young woman I met at the market confessed that she does not go to church, but maybe she serves the Lord in more meaningful and practical ways. The Lord will judge our hearts — even those who have perfect church attendance.
There is an older man (Gene) who works at the store where I met the young woman. He loves the Lord, but hates his job stocking cigarettes and beer. He’s always complaining to God while giving thanks that he even has a job. He prays incessantly that God would free him from his “wretched job”. Many of his customers are the homeless — the same faces who come in every day to buy alcohol and tobacco. A number of them have succumbed over the years to cancer or hepatitis. I have counselled Gene that maybe God wants him in this position to be light and salt to desperate people — souls that need to put down the bottle and drink from the cup of Christ. Though he hates his job with a passion Gene is recognized as one of the store’s best employees. I asked him about that and he said, “I just have to remind myself that I serve the Lord and not man. Every morning as I leave for work I read the passage in Colossians 3:23 that says, Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. That gives me the strength to do my best because it glorifies Him.”
We serve the Lord in so many ways. To love Him with all of our heart, mind and soul means that we serve Him every day in all that we do remembering that “church” is not just a weekly assembly, but it begins at home when we awaken in the morning offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the One who gives us life and all blessings.
Suggested Reading: Is a Home Church Biblical?
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