HEBREWS 10:25 (ESV)
“Do not neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the Day drawing near.”
Our family is probably like yours. Throughout the day we, as a family of six, are pulled in many different directions. There is always more to be done and places to be. However, eating supper together at home is one of those moments which we consider to be essential.
During our family meal, we have the chance to look one another in the eye, thank God for His provision, share the ‘good, bad or interesting’ moments throughout the day, tell silly stories, form inside jokes and, of course, eat food which has been especially prepared for the needs of our growing family.
Mealtime reinforces a behavior which is greater than words. We are expressing that we care for one another, that we need one another and that we are united in the midst of our daily, individual routines.
When we miss these moments, it is noticeable. We can easily drift into a place where miscommunication or impatience grows. Mutual care and Christ-centered identity flourishes when our family intentionally gathers at a table. It is perhaps the most important element of life together.
Gathering with other Christians around the word of God is like the family meal. It is there that we stop to feast upon the presence and promises of Jesus, offer words of encouragement and demonstrate that everyone is a vital part of the family and mission of God. It is the one place where we can look each other in the eye, assess how things are really going, and take time to laugh, empathize and pray.
Gatherings like this often take place on Sunday mornings. These larger gatherings are like the family table – regular and expected.
Yet, there are also other smaller gatherings, like eating and praying with two spiritual friends. These serve our souls like a brief sibling lunch.
(Side note: To carry the illustration one step further, there is also the family banquet, that moment when all believers will gather in eternity and celebrate the presence of God forever. Larger, global gatherings, like what Pastor Tom and I are experiencing right now with the 2021 Gospel Coalition Conference are just a foretaste of that gathering yet to come.)
The Early Church made both larger and smaller gatherings an essential part of their faith development (see Acts 2). In fact, it’s hard to imagine their commitment to faithful disciple-making without it. In the face of great persecution, ‘family-time’ kept their identity clear and their hearts encouraged.
Yet, by the time that Hebrews was written, mealtime was being neglected. They were starving themselves and needed to be encouraged back into the habit.
We live at a time when the majority of Christians believe that the spiritual ‘mealtime’ is no longer essential for their spiritual vitality. Christ-centered gatherings on Sunday mornings and spiritual touch-points during the week easily become replaced with either more work or more leisure.
But not meeting with other Christians deeply affects us. When we neglect feasting together, we drift away from our unified identity, forget our part in the family of God and replace the mission of God with our own self-centered agendas.
This week, let’s re-consider the significance of regular habits of Christian community. May we be the kind of people who value ‘family-time’ and discover an even greater longing for more of it. Lord, help us to value Christian community as much as you do. Help us to treat Christ-centered gatherings as truly essential for our wellbeing and Your kingdom. Through Jesus, Amen!