Every summer during our pastor’s vacation, a member of the worship team pinch-hits for him in the pulpit. His latest sermon was what I call an “award winner.” It focused on Hebrews 10:19-25 and our call to build one another up in the body of Christ. The passage ends with the advice: “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching” (v. 25 MEV).
While some have used these words as a club to insist folks should be at church every time the doors are open, there’s more to it.
As followers of Christ, we need to assemble together—whether at church, at a picnic in the park, at inter-denominational worship services, or in online forums. To boil it down to its essence: we need each other.
Sidelined by Pandemic
Judging by what has happened at our church and others, last year’s lockdown phase of life had a serious impact on attendance.
When in-person services resumed, many saw half of their customary pre-lockdown turnouts. Granted, with online services enabling many to tune in from the comfort of their living room, there may be more eyeballs on the pastor now than less.
And yet, remote connections have limitations, especially the conversations that go on before and after church services. In such circumstances, we tend to learn things about other people that we otherwise wouldn’t know.
As our guest preacher reminded us, we must be involved in other people’s lives and we can’t do that if we aren’t around them very often.
In the case of this sermon, I could have offered a real-life example of the value of close contact with other church members.
This incident took place two days earlier, when I was in the midst of a serious struggle after my wife’s sudden hospitalization for what turned out to be a bad reaction to an antibiotic she had started taking 10 days before.
The emotional and physical drain of that week turned out to be a bigger kick in the teeth than I initially realized. More than a week after she had come home, I found myself fighting fatigue and feelings of hopelessness.
At dinner on a Friday, I told my wife about a problem with a book edit that had turned into the living, breathing definition of “painstaking.” Until I talked about it, I didn’t realize how upset I was about it.
But it went deeper than an editing project. I was still trying to recover from the hospital ordeal. Finally, my wife suggested I might want to talk with our pastor.
I told her that since he was leaving early the next morning for vacation, I didn’t think he would have time. So I texted one of our church elders, asking if he would he home that night; I needed to talk.
He said, “Sure.” An hour later we drove to his home, located in a quiet residential area. For more than an hour we sat on the porch and talked to him and his wife. I shared how draining this experience had been and how it had hit me much harder than I originally envisioned.
Along the way, we talked about other issues, finishing our session in prayer, which he led.
That and a weekend of complete rest that followed helped launch me on my way back to normalcy. It’s also a vivid example of why we need each other to make it through life.