The Church: Attendance

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.


The Church: Reciprocal Benefits of Christian Ministry

This second post from J.L. Dagg’s A Treatise on Church Order deals with the reciprocal benefits of Christian ministry.  You can find the first post here.  From my own experience, I know how mutually edifying it is to hear when the preaching and teaching of the word falls on fertile soil.    

God has given the Christian ministry for the edification of his people; and every church ought to avail itself of this divine gift, and use it to the best advantage. For this purpose, the minister should be supported by cheerful contributions from the members of the church, that he may devote himself to the promotion of their spiritual interests. He should be encouraged in every possible way to diligence and fidelity in his duties. His imperfections should be treated with tenderness; and if, at any time, he should become remiss in his work, or turn aside from it to secular pursuits, the church ought, in gentleness and love, to address him with such language as Paul directed to be used to Archippus. But such an address cannot be made with good effect by a church which does not sustain its minister, and free him from the necessity of worldly care.

The Church: Local Churches are Temporary but Christ-Honoring Institutions

My next several posts will consist of citations from J.L. Dagg’s A Treatise on Church Order.  These citations are portions from Chapter 9: Discipline, Section 2: Spiritual Improvement.  What a great summary of the church being the church!   

The spirit of unity pervades Christianity, and tends to bring the disciples of Christ into association with one another. Under the influence of this tendency, churches are formed; and in them an opportunity is given for display of brotherly love.  By the display, Christ is honored, and the world become convinced that his religion is divine. For the sake of Christ, therefore, and for the sake of the world, every church should labor to promote brotherly love.

The churches are the glory of Christ, not only in the brotherly love which they exhibit, but in their purity and devotion to the service of God. They are but small and temporary associations; yet they may reflect the glory of Christ to the view of an admiring world, as pure dew‑drops reflect the brightness of the sun. So to honor Christ, should be the constant effort of the churches; and to effect this, care should be exercised over the spirituality of every member. The pastor should devote himself, with incessant toil and prayer, to the spiritual good of his flock; the deacons should unite their efforts with his for the attainment of the great end; and the members should watch over one another, exhort one another, and provoke one another to love and good works.