This is the third submission in my series of posts on the church from J.L. Dagg’s, A Treatise on Church Order. In this section he speaks about church attendance. To be sure, it can be difficult to rouse the saints to come to church. A story is told about a mother encouraging her son to go to church one Sunday morning. Let’s listen in . . .
A mother woke her son up on Sunday morning and told him he needed to get ready to go to church. The son replied to his mother that he didn’t want to go to church this morning. She told him nonsense he should get up and go to church.
“But mom” he replied, “Everybody hates me, the sermons are boring and none of my friends ever come.”
His mother replied, “Now, son…! First, everybody doesn’t hate you, only a couple of bullies and you just have to stand up to them. Second, the sermons mean a lot to many people. If you listened to them, you’d be surprised at how good they are in helping people. Third, you have lots of friends at church. They are always having you over to their house. And finally, you have to go, you’re the pastor!”
As this humorous story reveals, we may not always feel like going to church. However, we find a clear NT instruction not to forsake the formal and informal gatherings with God’s people (Hebrews 10:25). “Not neglecting” is a present participle which indicates that missing church services should not be the habitual practice of a believer. To habitually neglect the meetings of the body of Christ is to thumb our nose, as it were, at the Christ of the body. In this section Dagg encourages “punctual attendance” and “regular attendance.”
Punctual attendance of the ministrations of the word, is necessary to the spiritual improvement of the church. It is necessary to encourage the heart of the minister. He cannot be expected to preach with earnestness and persevering zeal, if his people manifest no pleasure in listening to the truth which he proclaims. Let him know that they drink in the word with delight, that their souls are refreshed by it, and that it greatly increases their fruitfulness in holiness; with this knowledge he will be stimulated to go forward in his work with boldness, and to endure all his toils with the sustaining assurance that his labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Regular attendance on the ministrations of the word is necessary, that the hearers may grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ. Food is not more necessary to the body, than spiritual nourishment is to the soul; and the word is the appointed means of spiritual nourishment. It is the sincere milk, which babes in Christ desire, and by which they are nourished; and it is the strong meat, which they can use profitably who have attained to mature age in the divine life. Nor can spiritual health be expected, if the spiritual nourishment which God has provided, be received at far distant and irregular intervals. A regular return of one day in seven has been wisely appointed by the great Author of our being, who knows our frame, and perfectly understands what is best for the promotion of our highest interests. They who neglect this provision of his benevolence, reject the counsel of God against themselves, and bring spiritual leanness on their souls.