Food For When You Don’t Feel Hungry
I have a five-year-old daughter. And as you might expect, getting her to eat what you put in front of her when you put it there is a task for specialists and magicians, neither of which I am. So, at lunch time, after what seemed like days of pleading and tears and threats, she simply exclaimed, “But I’m not hungry.” I responded, “It doesn’t matter if you feel hungry or not; you need to eat and it’s lunchtime. So, eat.” She eventually ate, and we counted down the minutes until it was time to have the same conversation again at dinner time.
This is often the approach many have to the corporate gathering. “I don’t feel I need it this week. Everything is going smoothly. All seems well. I’m not hungry.” The problem, however, with this approach is that it undermines the very Gospel to which we are called in Christ Jesus. In this calling, we are not only brought into right fellowship with God through the work of Jesus Christ, but we are also brought into the covenant community, who is the Bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the Church.
And the local church gathering is not a supplemental aid to fill in the gaps of our “personal walk with Jesus.” It is not a side dish to our entree of private devotions. It is an indispensable component of our Christian life, where the ordinary means of grace are administered to us through the preaching of the Word, the sacraments, and discipline. It is the vehicle through which many of the one-another commands of Scripture are carried out. The corporate, weekly gathering of the Saints is essential to our sanctification. Apart from it, at best, we limp along in this Christian life, deprived of needed strength. And at worst, we may perhaps find ourselves to be outside of the community of faith altogether.
Does weekly church attendance save the soul?
No; Jesus’ substitutionary work does that. And through His substitutionary work, He has brought each individual believer into a community of believers called the Church—a church that gathers every Lord’s Day to engage with one another in the worship of God through the reading of Scripture, singing, prayers, the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments. That is what the Christian does, because that is who the Christian is: not a lone ranger out on his or her own, but a part of the body of Christ. Whether or not you feel as if you need to gather with the saints is irrelevant to the conversation. Much like my five-year-old with her lunch, you do need it, whether you feel that need or not.
So, brothers and sisters, pull up to the table, place the napkin on your lap, and sink your teeth into the means of grace that is the corporate gathering of the church.
Casey lives in Mason, Ohio. He has been married to his wife Laura for 8 years, and they have two beautiful daughters, Willow and Rowan. He is an elder and the Pastor of Preaching at Celebration Church in Mason, Ohio.