Side by Side on Sundays

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I’m just not getting fed at church.
The music doesn't really connect with me.
I wish the preacher would use more stories or illustrations.

Have you heard those statements before? Or maybe, like me, you’ve even said them yourself — or something like them? After all, isn’t that the purpose of our weekly corporate worship gatherings — to be fed? Sadly our preferences too often shape our perceptions of worship, and blind us to its corporate-ness. It is important, even essential, that we get from God in worship through the word, singing, and prayer. But it’s not the only thing.

Hebrews 10:24–25 gives us another purpose in our gathering: one another.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Recently these words landed on me with force. There are over fifty “one another” commands in the New Testament — fifty! Most of these are either explicit calls to love one another (like John 13:34–35), or revolve around some aspect of loving one another (being kind, bearing each other’s burdens, seeking peace, and more). After all, the only thing that counts in Christ is faith working through love (Galatians 5:6).

Or to put it another way, “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:13–14).

Three Calls for Corporate Worship

These verses in Galatians are what I had been turning over in my heart and mind when I was confronted with the punch of Hebrews 10. After celebrating the confidence that a believer has before God through the blood of Jesus Christ, the author calls us to three things:

  1. Draw near with our newfound assurance of clean hearts.

  2. Hold fast the confession of our hope.

  3. Consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

The gospel doesn’t just help us draw near to God in the confidence of cleansed sins (#1), or give us future hope to hold fast to (#2), but it also yields the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), beginning with love (#3).

A Place Where One-Anothering Happens

Now, here’s the punch line: loving one another requires another. We might live in the most individualistic society in the history of the world. At a time and place like this, some of our Christian subculture seems plagued by a type of “me-centered” consumerism that can be, quite frankly, a mockery of the gospel. But Hebrews leads us in the very opposite direction. The gospel, rather, presents us with the clarion call to consider others. This does not happen in isolation.

As important and essential as the prayer closet is, the “one-another” life resulting from a gospel-transformed life cannot be reserved for the prayer closet. It happens when we don’t neglect the context that God has created for mutual care and “one-anothering” — corporate worship.

The Well of One-Anothering

In fact, perhaps one of the main purposes of the prayer closet is to become so full with the joy of seeing and savoring Christ that we must overflow and share that fullness with others. Brothers and sisters, “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together.” Do not neglect corporate worship. It is the basket God has given us for the faith-filled fruit of loving one another.

As we prepare our hearts this weekend for corporate worship, let’s hope our only considerations aren’t, “I hope the sermon is good,” or “I hope we sing my favorite hymn.” Rather, let’s ask God to stir our hearts to consider how we might stir those around us to love and good works, encouraging them in their faith.

We need to be getting from God week after week, but that’s not the only goal. What we receive should be overflowing — as often as we meet — into the lives of others. We gather on Sundays to receive from God, and to give to others.