Question:

Hey brother Hamilton,

I have a concern I know you will be able to help me address. I am a teacher at a local church of Christ. I have been doing my best teaching the congregation starting about a year ago. I am also a teenager who will be graduating this year.

My concern is that my fellow brothers and sisters do not believe it is necessary to attend Sunday evening and Bible class. The majority does show up during these meeting times but do not believe it is necessary. Our preacher does not attend Sunday evening or Wednesday night due to his health problems, neither does a couple of other members. The small congregation is mostly family. Among them is my grandma who cares for my siblings and me. She takes us whenever we meet but does not find it necessary to go. We often get into heated discussions over many scriptural topics which turns into arguments (which I know I am supposed to avoid, honoring her) because her reasoning is fallacious. I know it is best to do what is right, and this happens to be one of the disagreements. My understanding is that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25), which means we are supposed to be there whenever the opportunity arises and to do it in joy.

In a nutshell, I don't know what I am supposed to do, partly because I am still young and maybe a little afraid because they are family. However, I fear what God is capable of way more and am willing to do what I must to not only get myself to heaven but my brothers and sisters too. What shall I do?

Answer:

Sadly, your observation is correct. Despite clear commands to assemble and be a part of a church, many people only attend what they feel is the absolute minimum necessary. These are the people who are most likely to fall away into sin because they lack the encouragement of fellow Christians. See: Does the command to "forsake not the assembling of ourselves together" apply only to Sunday worship?

Skipping services is a symptom of deeper problems. Without addressing the cause, the symptom will only get worse. It is a guess, but I suspect that most aren't getting much out of the worship services. Even though they are mostly family, they don't look forward to seeing each other. Addressing the problem would require changing attitudes, and I suspect that won't happen easily because the leadership you have in the preacher is lacking because of his own health problems.

However, the anger is something we can address. You are trying to make people do what is right. I understand the desire. I face it all the time, too. You know what needs to be done, but others resist the obvious. But when you try to force people, the result is anger in yourself and others. Think about this: If you pushed your brother, what would happen? Unless caught off guard, he will shift his weight and dig in, so he won't move. It is a natural and automatic response. People do the same thing with arguments. The more heated the debate, the less anyone involved moves.

Therefore, you need to shift your expectations. First, you set the best example that you can. "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (I Timothy 4:12). Second, become another Barnabas (a son of encouragement). Tell people how much you enjoy seeing them and being with them. As best you can, make your lessons interesting so that people will want to come and learn more.

Do you remember the story of the prodigal son? When the younger son insisted on leaving, the father did not chase after the son. Having a free will, each person has the freedom to make their own mistakes. You can teach people the right way to live, you can encourage them to make good choices, you may even scold when they make bad ones, but never forget that ultimately it is their choice. In the case of the prodigal son, he chose to return and what drew him back were the memories of father's household.

Thus, you can't make people want to be with their brothers and sisters in Christ, but you can show an example of eagerness to serve and help foster an environment where people can look forward to coming to services. For example, you can tell your grandmother "I know it is hard to get out and get us to services, but I'm glad you've made an effort for us, and I hope it has been for yourself as well."

Question:

Thank you, brother, for responding.

I did not exactly how I should respond, but your response has given me more encouragement, and that is exactly how I will respond.

May our glorious God be with you and our brotherhood until the end of the world.

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