A number of months ago, I was talking with a wonderful mother about her son and his family. She told me he and his family are not going to church, but she is almost certain that in a couple of years, they will seek a church and will become as active as she is. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I was talking with a son about his father who has moved away. I inquired about the church he is attending and was told he no longer attends church. The father mentioned that there is nothing new that he will find in the church and his acquired group of friends do not believe in attending church anymore.
I am always puzzled by these exceptions because I do not find them in the Bible, yet I find that sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers create these exceptions. Many mothers have decided that while their children are small, they should not come to the church. Many husbands decided that since their wives come to church, they do not need to come. Some young people decided that they will have enough time in the future to come. Some older people decide that since they have been in church, they have missed other activities and now that they are retired, it is time to do those things.
In the Scripture, I cannot find a single instance in which God gives us these exceptions. The first commandment is to love our God with all our soul, strength, and body every day of our lives. Most people interpret this verse to mean the One who demands our being completely, wants us to worship Him all the time.
Secondly, I am puzzled by what replaces worship of God in the church. (I do not want to be presumptuous that people do not worship the Lord outside of the church, but I find that most people who do not worship God regularly in a group or visibly, rarely have a strong personal relationship with us. There are always the exceptions). Something replaces the time of worship. Sometimes it is sports, catching up on reading, or visiting with friends and family. Sometimes worship is being replaced with good things and sometimes it is replaced by bad things. It is in the good things that we read those passages that God is a jealous God who desires us for a constant fellowship with Him.
Thirdly, I find that when people are not encountering God, it produces such devastation in their lives. I have ministered to people who in these circumstances have become entangled with people from whose wounds and scars needed decades to heal or people who became so depressed that life was no longer meaningful to them.
Sometimes I had to delineate the accusation that it is the clergy who want the people in the church because without their presence (and their financial contribution) the church/es will cease to exist. The argument is that it is a personal gain for the clergy to have more people in the church. While there is some truth to this statement, I came to the conclusion that even if I was not a minister, I would still serve the Lord and I would be present in the church. It is this relationship with God which is tested and verified by the Holy Scriptures that inspire me to love the Lord with all my soul, strength, and body every day of my life – privately and in the assembly of the redeemed people of God.