Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 4, 1955

Staying For Worship

Cecil B. Douthitt, Brownwood, Texas

The undesirable custom and hurtful practice of leaving the place of worship after the Bible school, and not staying for the sermon and the general meeting of the congregation on Lord's Day, is a serious problem with some denominational groups. I know of one denominational organization whose Sunday school has an attendance of several hundred; often less than one hundred stay for the sermon.

The plain churches of Christ have not been afflicted with this harmful habit to any great degree. Usually many more are present at the hour of worship than are present in the Sunday morning Bible classes. The few who do leave after the classes do so ordinarily, not because they do not want to stay for the regular assembly, but because they think other matters require their attention.

The students should be taught in the Bible classes the importance of attending the Lord's Day assembly. It is no compliment to either the class or the teacher when the pupils rush out immediately after the Bible study feeling they have complied with their duty in the matter of church attendance. The teacher should know who is leaving before the worship, and should try to correct the habit.

The "custom" or "manner" of some is to attend the meetings of the church every Lord's Day. Others attend only occasionally, but attending is not their "custom"; their "custom" or "manner" is to be absent.

A "custom" is a habitual or usual course of action. The usual course of action of some church members is to stay away from the assembly, except on very rare occasions. When they do attend, they do that which is not their "custom." They can be absent without violating their usual course of action. Those who attend regularly cannot be absent without violating their usual course of action, for it is their "custom" to attend.

An inspired writer had something to say about these two customs: "And let us consider one another to provoke to love and good works; not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh." (Heb. 10:24-25.)

Some may be puzzled over what that "day" that is "drawing nigh" is: whether it is the Lord's Day, or the judgment day, or the day of Jerusalem's destruction; but brethren are not in doubt as to the day of the week on which the early Christians met regularly to worship God. I Corinthians 16:2 and Acts 20:7 settle that point. Therefore the vital question is: What is your custom regarding the Lord's Day meeting of the saints? If it is your custom to be absent habitually when you could be present, you are forsaking the assembly, and the Lord commands and warns all Christians for all time to come not to imitate your "custom." Is your "custom" or "manner" such that the Lord points you out as an example to be avoided, as he pointed out the sinful Israelites (I Cor. 10:1-11), the hypocrites (Matt. 6:1-6), and the scribes and Pharisees? (Matt. 23:1-3.)

A Sunday morning Bible class is not the assembly of the church. A person may attend a Bible class every week and still be in disobedience to the commandment in Hebrews 10:25.

Great emphasis should be placed upon the benefits derived from the study of the Bible in classes. Earnest efforts should be made to build up and maintain regular attendance in these Sunday morning classes; efforts equally as great, or even greater, should be made by both teacher and class to build up and to maintain regular attendance at the hour of worship and meeting of the whole congregation.

The recent reports of rivalry for Sunday school attendance among some of the larger churches of Christ may not correctly represent the efforts of the workers in these churches; however, if these reports are true and accurate, then some of our scholarly brethren who ought to know better certainly have lost sight of some of the "weightier matters of the law.

Even the little children should remain after the classes for the hour of worship. Many times the impressions they receive before they have reached the age of responsibility unto God lead them to become Christians when they do reach that age. It is good for them to witness the performance of every act of worship, especially the singing and the Lord's Supper. Many of them will be impressed by the solemnity and sacredness of these two acts of worship. These impressions for good remain through life. The parent who rushes his children off for home after the classes and before the worship is robbing them of a great opportunity and some helpful lessons.

The Lord's Day meetings of the church will not suffer much on account of non-attendance if all parents, teachers and leaders will place the proper emphasis upon the importance of this phase of the Christian life. Under apostolic direction the Christians met to worship God. (Acts 20:7.) The desire to out-number another congregation was never the motive employed by inspired men to build up attendance. And he who does not know today that it is wrong to appeal to such a motive for obedience to the Lord certainly needs some one to teach him "the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God." (Heb. 5:12.)