We all want better, truer, deeper Christian community. We all want to grow personally. But how do we get there?
Scripture has a surprising answer: Show up.
We are obsessed with lifehacks and shortcuts today. Everywhere ads hit us with easy trick to grow our investments, to make dinner prep a breeze, to give us a toned body in seven minutes, to rack up credit card points. We’re tempted to believe that maybe, somehow, there’s a real shortcut there for Christian community and spiritual growth.
Certainly tips and tricks for daily life stuff have their place, but the writer of Hebrews gives us the opposite of a shortcut: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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.” (Heb 10:24-25)
That’s his charge: think about how to stir up other believers, don’t neglect just showing up week after week at church or in your small group or with your accountability partner and encourage them. No shortcuts. Just refusing to quit.
This Does and Does Not Mean Church Attendance
Two qualifications up front:
First, this doesn’t just apply to church attendance. We see that in Acts 2 after the church is formed that the people were gathering “day by day” both in large gatherings and in one another’s homes (Acts 2:42-27). So this applies to the patterns of Christian fellowship.
It applies to whether or not you get together with other men as a man to be accountable to them, it applies to whether you as a couple get together with other Christian couples for help and encouragement, it applies to community groups and Bible studies. All of these can be ways of neglecting to meet together.
Second, it does apply to church attendance. I’ve read that the “average churchgoer” a decade ago used to be someone who attends church 3 out of 4 Sundays a month. But today the “average churchgoer” is slipping to attend just 2 out of 4 Sundays per month. Now, some of that is that many jobs no longer keep Sunday as the “day off” and I get that. But a lot of this is just that the American mindset has shifted such that it’s common in church culture to neglect the meeting together of the saints.
We think talking about Jesus with three golf buddies on a Sunday morning can be “church.” Biblically defined, that’s simply not what’s being referred to here in Hebrews 10.
He means the church gathering where everyone lays down their schedules and drives or walks for a while and sings together and hears someone explain and proclaim the Bible and then people stick around so long they have to be kicked out of the building. (I’m pretty sure that’s in the original koine Greek.)
When I was growing up, there were seasons my dad had to work 7 days a week for his job, and not just for a week or two, but for many weeks in a row. He’d say those were some of the hardest weeks of his life.
But to support our family and honor his commitments that’s what he had to do. So during those weeks, he attended his Community Group like his life depended on it and he sought out fellowship with other Christian men and he listened to messages.
It wasn’t the same and he got away from doing that as soon as his job would allow him. But he did all he could to not neglect the gathering of believers. That made an impact on our family culture.
Show up for yourself
Just before verse 24, we read in verse 23: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
Now, why is this right before the command to stir one another and meet together? Because the book of Hebrews reminds us that we must play our part and hold fast our confession of hope (our faith) without wavering. But one of the ways we hold on to our confession is by holding on to each other.
If we want to persevere in the faith we must persevere in meeting together. The two are completely connected.
Earlier in Hebrews, the writer encourages us to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13). The writer says that we need to exhort others but that we also need others to exhort us.
One of the main ways we lose hold of our confession is that we get seduced by sin. We stop saying Jesus is Lord because of that one co-worker who is off-limits is hot and into us, or greed is seductive, or envy rots us out from the inside, or sinful anger burns everything around us.
We need others because if are left to ourselves sin has a hardening effect. We get used to it. Our hearts get hard. That’s why we need others.
The writer is calling us to live in the community enough to be known. We spend so much time in this digital age putting our best profile picture forward, but what we really need is for people to see us at our most discouraged or tempted or angry. We need to make ourselves known enough that we can be exhorted to keep holding our confession.
Show up for others
The command to show up is sandwiched with two counter-intuitive reasons for showing up in verse 24:
- “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…”
- “Encouraging one another…”
You need to show up not just because you need other people, but because other people need you! The writer of Hebrews knows we’re dense. He spells it out: show up because if you don’t show up you can’t do this stuff, much less all the other things the Bible calls us to do in the Christian community.
God is calling us to show up at those church meetings not just because we’ve had a hard day and need encouragement, but because there will be people that need our specific encouragement for their own hard days. We need each other.
There are roughly 59 “one another” commands we’re given—things we’re mean to do in Jesus’ family. Look at a just a handful:
- “Honor one another” (Romans 12:10)
- “Accept one another” (Romans 15:7)
- “Instruct one another (Romans 15:14) and “Teach one another” (Col 3:16)
- “Serve one another in love” (Gal 5:13)
- “Carry one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2)
- “Speak to one another with Psalms hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph 5:19)
- “Confess your sin to one another” (James 5:16)
- “Offer hospitality to one another” (1 Peter 4:9)
Here’s the thing: You can don’t any of those things if you don’t show up in the lives of other people. And doing this stuff makes our overall community stronger. It strengthens the members of the body of Christ around us. And when we ourselves need help we find people to help us.
Self-Evaluation: How are you doing?
Take a second here, stop in the middle of the constant stream of internet stuff, and think. Consider whether you are really “showing up” in the Christian community around you?
- How often do you attend your church worship services? How hard or easy is it to budge that on your calendar?
- When is the last time you had fellow believers in your home? When’s the last time you were in their home?
- Think about the last few major decisions you’ve made. (Job, career, family, buying car or house, etc.) Did you get input from any fellow believers about it?
- Think about your parenting. How many conversations have you had with other parents about how they think about issues and what you can learn? (Rather than just sharing “Well I believe you should…”
- Think about your top two sin struggles. How many people know about them?
- Think about where you’re specifically trying to grow in your relationship with your spouse. Does anyone else know about this?
- Do you serve others in the family of Christ so that if you left it would be a loss?