As covered in my article, “The Role of the Assembly,” occasional absences from the meetings of the church are permissible.
While ritual/worship is essential (“must” Jn. 4.23-24), God also expects us to put “mercy” (Hos. 6.6; Mt. 12.7) and “obedience” ahead of “sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15.22; Mk. 12.33). To worship God without obeying his directives or without compassion for human well-being is to dishonor God (see also: “Lawless Legalists”).
However, the matters addressed in that article — i.e., concerning Covid-19 emergencies and the like — concentrate upon the exception. What about the rule?
In this devotional column, we establish the fact that participating in the services of the local church is essential to our salvation (see also: “The Lord’s Church: Its Essentiality”). God expects us to be regular attendees at the local assembly on Sunday mornings, evenings, mid-week studies, and Gospel Meetings, as well as at any other service the leadership of the congregation makes available for our “advantage” (Heb. 13.17, ESV).
Here, then, are a few reasons why I attend every church service I can (and why you should too).
First, I Love God And His Church More Than Everything.
Those who truly love the assembly of the saints will not think of church as a tedious commitment, to which they are bound to give their time. Rather, we should be “glad” to go (Ps. 122.1; cf. Is. 2:3; Mic. 4:2; Zech. 8:21)!
What is the reason for such excitement? Consider a few explanations.
(1) The church was built by Christ himself (Mt. 16.18). It is thrilling to be a part of something fashioned by Christ according to the “eternal purpose” of God (Eph. 3.10-11).
(2) Christ died for the church, to “purchase” it “with his own blood” (Acts 20.28). Since he was willing to sacrifice his life for it, I am all the more eager to sacrifice mine to it as well.
(3) Christ himself loves the church (Eph. 5.25f), as a husband loves his wife. In turn, my devotion to the church stems from my fidelity to my spiritual “head” (Eph. 5.23). How could other loves in this world ever pique my interest away from “Christ and the church” (Eph. 5.32)?
(4) The church is where I weekly receive spiritual encouragement to keep participating in “love and good works” (Heb. 10.24) and am equipped with “knowledge” that my brethren share with me to help my faith increase (1 Cor. 14.4ff).
(5) Furthermore, God receives “glory in the church” (Eph. 3.21), in which I intensely want to participate.
In light of all that, my love for God and his kingdom trumps my love for recreation and other “pleasures of life” (Lk. 8.7, 14), for making money (Mt. 6.24, 33), for my own family (Mt. 10.37), and even for my own life (Lk. 14.26). And since that is so, I strive to be present for worship whenever possible, barring exceptional cases where my sacred duty requires me, on occasion, to suspend ritual activities, as mentioned earlier.
Second, God Instructs It.
In 1 Corinthians 16.1-2, Paul instructed the church to gather together “on the first day of every week,” where each member is obliged to “put something aside” (present tense, regularly put aside) into the “collection for the saints” and to “store it up, as he may prosper” (ESV).
While some commentators suggest that the expression, put something aside, means to “put by at home” (Vincent, III:288; and Meyer), that is not the likely meaning. Linguistically speaking, since the term, heautou (something), could be either masculine or neuter, the phrase may mean either:
(1) “Be putting aside himself” (masculine; i.e., at home/privately). However, this would be a very extraordinary way of expressing this; and en oiko (lit., “at home” — cf. 1 Cor. 11.34; 14.35) would have been the more natural choice of expression to convey this instead of par heautou as selected here.
(2) “Be putting aside as he himself decides” (masculine; i.e., as he “purposes in his heart” — 2 Cor. 9.7) — see Ferguson, p. 240.
(3) Or, “Be putting something aside” (neuter). The neuter option is more likely, in light of the surrounding context (see Jackson for further insight).
Moreover, the word, thesaurizo (store), means to “treasure up.” The command is to put our offerings into “the common treasury” (Barnes, p. 227), which is to be collected “at the public meeting” (Bengel, II.343). This was to be done so “that there be no collections when” Paul arrived (v. 2).
Ellicott ably explains why Paul could not have been urging an “at home” collection, but rather a collection “stored up” in a treasury during the Sunday gathering of the church:
The object of this direction is expressly stated to be that the money should all be ready in bulk-sum when the Apostle came, so that his time and that of the Christian community during his visit might not be occupied with this, but with more profitable matters, which result would not have been accomplished if the offering had then to be gathered from each Christian home.
The point is this: God “orders” the church to assemble for this purpose on “the first day of every week.” It is something the churches “must do" (v. 1), in which "each one of" the members must participate (v. 2).
Of course, if we are unable to assemble on occasion, then we may certainly set our contribution aside privately and add the balance to the treasury when we are able to start meeting again. Yet, again, such a practice is exceptional. The rule is: gather together "on the first day of every week" and keep placing something into the treasury for "the collection for the saints." Reprehensibly, some would prefer to follow the exception and ignore the rule.
In addition to the collection, God also calls the brethren together to partake of the communion (cf. Acts 20.7; see “The Timing of the Communion”) and to engage in congregational singing (cf. Eph. 5.19). We are commanded to “conduct ourselves” properly “in the house of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3.15; cf. Acts 13.1) and to “come together as a church” (1 Cor. 11.18, 20; 14.23).
Furthermore, each Christian must also make themselves answerable to the oversight of the local leaders of the church (Acts 20.28; Heb. 13.7, 17).
In short, I cannot do any of these things with the local church if I choose to stay home! Hence, unless I am in attendance regularly, I am failing to obey my master’s instructions.
Third, The Lord Himself Attends The Assembly.
The Bible repeatedly insists that Jesus is present “in the midst of the assembly,” singing praise with his brethren (Heb. 2.11-12). He walked “in the midst of the seven lamp stands” (Rev. 1.13; 2.1), which represented the “seven churches” of Asia (Rev. 1.20, 11).
Because he is in assembly, I want to fellowship with him in that environment as often as possible. As Jesus put it: “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also” (John 14.26).
Fourth, The New Testament Church Assembled Regularly.
The togetherness of the church is frequently noted in the Scriptures (Acts 1.14; 2.46; 4.23-24; 5.12; 14.21-27; 20.7). They were not isolated “islands of faith.” Rather, “[a]ll who believed were together” (imperfect tense: were regularly together; Acts 2.44). That is what being a believer entails!
Since the first-century church was guided by the direction of the apostles of Christ (cf. 2 Pet 3.1-2; Jude 17), who spoke as inspired “ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through” them (2 Cor. 5.20; cf. 1 Thess. 2.13; 2 Tim. 3.16-17), the way they prompted the church to function therefore serves as our God-given model. In other words, God’s plan for the church, as revealed through the leadership of the apostles of Christ and the practice of the New Testament church, involves regular gatherings of fellow believers.
Hence, I, as a believer, am obliged to follow that sacred example (cf. Phil. 3.17).
Finally, God Prohibits Routine Absenteeism.
As we pointed out in the aforementioned article, Hebrews 10.25 inveighs against recurrent truancy from Christian gatherings.
In the context, the inspired author exhorts us to “draw near” (Heb. 10.22), “hold fast” (Heb. 10.23), and “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Heb. 10.24). How do we maintain these Christian responsibilities? By “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” (v. 25, ESV).
Instead, we are expected to “continue steadfastly…in fellowship” with one another (Acts 2.42). Hence, routine assembling is required; while habitual absences are specifically forbidden.
The best way to determine whether or not your church attendance is as it should be is to take notice of the reaction that your appearance or absence produces. If you or others are pleasantly surprised by your unexpected attendance on a Sunday morning, evening, or Wednesday night (etc.), then you likely need to correct your habits. If, however, you or they are surprised by your absence, then you have a faithful attendance record.
In brief, your presence should become an expected habit whenever the church opens its doors. Your absence should be unexpected, because occasional. But if you habitually excuse yourself from the meetings of the church so that it becomes an expected routine, you have likely developed a heart problem that needs prompt correction .
And while mercy may allow me to miss a service now and then due to genuine need , I refuse to “turn the grace of our God” into an excuse to neglect my Christian duties (Jude 4).
Consequently, since I wish to keep my “heart right with God,” I aim to attend every church service I possibly can.
Barnes, Albert. Notes on 1st Corinthians. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1956. Bengal, J.A. Gnomon of the New Testament. Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark. 1877. Ellicott, Charles. Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers. BibleHub.com. Access date: April 20, 2021. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/ellicott/1_corinthians/16.htm Ferguson, Everett. The Church of Christ. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996. Jackson, Wayne. “Does First Corinthians 16:1-2 Constitute A Binding Pattern?” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: April 20, 2021. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1536-does-1-corinthians-16-1-2-constitute-a-binding-pattern Meyer, H. A. W. Meyer’s NT Commentary. BibleHub.com. Access date: April 20, 2021. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/meyer/1_corinthians/16.htm Vincent, Marvin R. Word Studies in the New Testament: Vol. III. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973.
 Those who are “shut-in” due to health impediments, of course, are excused from regular appearances on grounds of “mercy.” Yet, a reasonable Christian can make a distinction between an immobile individual, who is physically incapable of attending regularly (e.g., in a coma; in hospital; in a nursing home; etc.), and someone who regularly excuses himself from assembly for the most trivial “health” reasons (runny nose; slight headache; too hot outside; too cold outside; etc.). Even if human beings think they are being clever for such subterfuge, God “knows the hearts of all” (Acts 1.24; 1 Sam. 16:7; Jer. 17:10)!
 For example, violent storms (snow, hurricane, floods, etc.), public or personal health, man-made emergencies (work or otherwise — e.g., a doctor called to aid his patient; a brutal battle in town during times of war, etc.).