When We Gather
Maybe you're alone all week and you're struggling with doubt in the faith. You show up at the assembly, you look around, you see other people singing the same songs of praise that you're singing, and your heart is strengthened and full of faith. Maybe you've grown anxious all week by the news cycles that you're seeing, by the politics and the controversies of this world, and you think, This is the most important thing we got. We got to get involved. We got to do something. America's going down, right?
But then you show up to the sermon, you listen to the preacher, and he tells you that Jesus is king and that Jesus wins and that one day his saints will be vindicated, even as he is vindicated. With this, your heart starts to settle down and rest on these gospel truths.
And then, again, you look around and you hear other people saying, Amen, that's right! as you hear them respond to the preaching of those gospel words. Your faith is heartened and enlivened by the presence of people around you. Maybe you’ve been hiding sin all week. And then that older couple invites you over for lunch and they lean in and ask, How are you doing? No, really, how are you doing? In that moment, that little thing that you were tempted to keep in the dark—maybe it's loneliness or a sin—you feel compelled to share and talk through with them.
Gathering with other believers is messy. Loving other people—getting involved in their lives—is messy. But you know what? So is love.
These are the things that happen in the gathering. I understand why virtual churches are attractive. Gathering with other believers is messy. Loving other people—getting involved in their lives—is messy. But you know what? So is love. Love is messy. You know what else? The gospel is messy. It means loving sinners—people like you and me. So all the inconveniences that we can avoid through virtual church—all the messiness of the actual church that we see when we gather together—these are the very things that God means to grow and conform us to his own loving image in the display of the gospel.
Jonathan Leeman is the coauthor with Collin Hansen of Rediscover Church: Why the Body of Christ Is Essential.
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Jonathan Leeman discusses the vital importance of in-person church fellowship, how we can and should prioritize involvement with the people of God in a local church—especially after a year like 2020.