The public gatherings of the church serve so many roles. First and foremost, it is to act as the regular, weekly time for God’s people within a local church to come together to worship God. It also serves as that time which God’s people are fed by God’s Word, sing in unison of the great truths of the gospel, fellowship with one another, and declare the truth of the gospel to those present who do not know Christ.
There is, however, a role the local church plays in the lives of our people that full-time pastors can easily forget. It is a role that those of us who spend much of our days immersed in God’s Word and caring for God’s people do not experience like most all our folks. Here is a role of the weekly public gathering we as full time pastors can forget:
The public, weekly gathering of the church provides a place of refuge, strength, and encouragement to our people who spend 5 days a week immersed in the world, surrounded by those who hate God, and constantly challenge the truths of the gospel they believe.
I was reminded afresh of this by one of our pastors who works a full time job in a very secular environment where the presence of Christian fellowship and conversation is virtuously non-existent. Although the calling for Christians to be salt and light in the world can and is exciting, fruitful, and that which should drive us to share our faith, it can and is also draining, challenging, and can discourage Christians who find themselves solely in those environments 40+ hours a week.
This among many other reasons is why we as pastors need to be cautious that our public gatherings do not resemble the world to the extent that it does not provide the refuge and encouragement that many of our people seek and need, to return Monday morning back in that environment invigorated to go and be salt and light in that dark place.
Do not misunderstand. I am not proposing we plan our Sunday services not keeping in mind unbelievers who will attend. It is one of the many reasons we want the gospel clearly made known when we gather. But this opportunity to serve our people in this way should cause each of us as pastors to reconsider if our public gatherings are primarily geared for believers or unbelievers. How you answer that question is of fundamental importance of what kind of public gathering you plan each week and consequently, whether your people leave filled up by the greatness of our God and the hope of the gospel.
I easily forget this. I am sure you do as well. Pastors, do not feel bad that you spend the majority your days in God’s Word caring for God’s people. Just do not forget that our people generally do not live there, so we must plan Sundays with this in mind. This will challenge you to be clear and deliberate in your planning and your people will feel cared for by your efforts.