The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending, then having the two as close together as possible. - George Burns
As a pastor, I understand the importance of the economy of words; I think that most pastor’s do. We realize that we only have a limited amount of time to convey an infinitely important biblical message. (No pressure!) For most people, the adage is correct and the mind can only absorb what the seat can endure. This, of course, presents a challenge for the preacher—how to pack the most bang into a message while keeping the attention of the audience.
The goal of the preacher should be to convey a Biblical message that provokes a transforming response by the listener. Most pastors have around 25-35 minutes, once a week, to nurture, encourage, train, equip, and otherwise guide the development of the individual’s spiritual health. This assumes that the congregants attend every Sunday. Missing a Sunday here and there means cutting the preacher’s allotted time even more. You can be assured that developing Christians, under these conditions, is an almost impossible task.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42 NIV)
At the start of the Church, we find the first Christians being devoted to both teaching and fellowship. Let me be clear, the pastor/parishioner relationship only works biblically when both parties participate. Just as the pastor must commit to preaching biblical truths, the Christian must commit to regular attendance for the sake of worship, fellowship, and growth. It doesn’t matter how good of a job the preacher does if the individual is not there to hear the message.
Yes, snippets of useful truths can be gained from hearing one message. In fact, a person can hear a single message and receive the saving grace of Jesus. The Bible, however, does not tell us that the people received salvation and then quit attending. It was after they received the gospel message that they began attending regularly, with a devotion to the apostles’ teachings. The continuation of regular learning and worshiping must take place since continued spiritual development is required of any Christian. Herein lies the importance of commitment to both worship and study.
Attending Sunday worship is crucial to spiritual maintenance. The act of corporate worship is a means of grace by which God encourages the spiritual growth of the individual. Listening to a message here and there is certainly better than nothing, but only in the way drinking water once every two days is better than drinking nothing. In both cases, without exception, your health will deteriorate. Sporadic corporate worship is both unbiblical and unhealthy.
That being said, the reality is that, even if you attend every Sunday service where you listen to a dynamic, biblical, and theologically sound preacher, you are probably still not receiving enough to mature as a Christian, at least not the way God intends. The best you can get by attending only a weekly service is to maintain the status quo. Keep in mind, that is the best case scenario. For this reason, most churches offer small groups or other bible studies to provide for the spiritual development of the individual. God does not call you to the status quo. If he did, Jesus’ parable of the talents would have described the servant who buried the one talent more favorably.
The first Christians were committed, not just to regular worship, but to the teaching of the apostles. They did this because they wanted to develop as disciples themselves. The Christian today must also commit to regular attendance of Sunday School or other Bible studies if they hope to mature as disciples. Christians are to make every effort to present themselves “to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV). In order to handle the word of truth, we must know it. In Acts 8, the eunuch desired to know God better. The eunuch read the scriptures regularly, and yet Phillip had to help the eunuch understand the passage. Simply reading scripture is not enough, we must participate with others in order to properly interpret, understand, and apply the messages we read.
It is time that Christians took God seriously enough to commit to regular worship and study. This world is full of people who desperately need the love of Christ in their lives. How can we expect them to submit to His mercy and grace if we will not commit to growing in it?
I want to encourage you to attend your local church, regularly. Get up early, or stay later, and attend the Sunday School so that you can mature in your faith. Find a small group and get involved. Teach a study—it’s one of the best ways to learn and to obey God’s commission. Grow in knowledge and wisdom and love and then share it with others. Your Creator is so committed to you that He has pursued us throughout history and then let His love manifest into flesh that would be sacrificed for your sake. Perhaps we should be so committed to Him.
Grafted by His Grace,
Pastor Raul Granillo