Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.

People keep throwing this verse at me.

In blog comments, in tweets, in conversations.

“God commands that believers go to church!” they say.

Really?

I guess it depends on which translation you look at. Some say “worship meetings.” Some say “assembly.” Some say “meeting.”

I haven’t found the word “church” yet, but I haven’t checked more than, oh, say, a dozen translations.

“Assembling ourselves together.”

Yeh, I do that.  I assemble with other believers pretty much every day.  There’s my husband and one of my co-workers – I assemble with them daily (well, okay, I don’t see my co-worker on weekends, but still, that’s more often than the once-a-week church expectation).  And then there are my friends whom I see pretty regularly.

I do plenty of “assembling” with other believers and we talk about our faith and we encourage and “exhort” one another.  We pray for one another.

And I wonder . . . those who are admonishing those of us who aren’t “assembling ourselves together” in a church building . . . how many conversations do you have a day about your faith?  How often do you pray with and for others?  How often do you intentionally exhort or receive exhortation from another believer – as part of a close and personal relationship?

Because when I was in the church, I didn’t see much of that happening.  If it had, I probably wouldn’t have been told to never return. Because when there is real relationship, it’s not that easy to toss people aside.

I experience so much more of what God intended “the assembling of ourselves together” to be outside the church than I ever did inside.

I wish it were different.  I tried and tried to have inside the church what I have only found outside.  So, maybe, that’s more of what God intended anyway.

One-on-one or a gathering of a few in close relationship.  Relationships that are deep and vulnerable rather than superficial and fragile.

Not that church is a bad thing.  I love church.  I miss it.  Well, I miss what it should be in the context of a larger community.  But when it comes down to what “the assembling of ourselves together” is supposed to be . . . I have that.  Better than ever.  One-on-one.  And in groups of a few.  Real.  Vulnerable.  Encouraging.  Building up.  Exhorting.  Loving unconditionally.

Want to be part of my “assembling together”?  We would love to have you join us.  But I don’t think we’ll call it “church.”

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Comments
  1. Wow Ellen, I’ve been reading some of your blog and you have been through such a lot in your church experience. Sadly this sort of thing happens often but is usually kept under wraps. I am glad you are sharing your experiences and bringing things out into the open as it helps others who have been through the same.

    Hebrews 10:25 seems to be a classic verse used by controlling and abusive clergy to keep people “going to church” and make them feel guilty if they don’t. I identified with you completely when you said;

    “I experience so much more of what God intended “the assembling of ourselves together” to be outside the church than I ever did inside………….So, maybe, that’s more of what God intended anyway.”

    I have had experiences that have meant I had to stop “going to church”, and I was made to feel guilty for a while for not attending. But God used that time to teach me things I never would have learnt otherwise, and He brought people my way that meant I wasn’t alone. I began to experience what you have – something that was real, deep, encouraging, building up, loving etc. So much more in keeping with the early New Testament church model than sitting in rows of pews followed by a few handshakes and empty “How are you?” s at the end.

    Over time I began to understand that meeting with others (even at times just one or two) was Church, because Church is who we are. When God looks at His Church He sees us (all who belong to Him), not an institution with a building and staff. We are taught otherwise and made to feel guilty for not following man’s traditions. For me the guilt went when I began to experience and appreciate the importance of “being the church” instead of “going to church”.

    For some of us it isn’t possible to be part of a larger church community and God has had to bring us out (for our own safety), but He doesn’t leave us without any real fellowship.

    • Ellen says:

      Thank you for your comments. I cannot help but wonder if God is moving the church from the institution to a true Body. Not that the institutional church will disappear from the scene any time soon, but I see and hear about so many who have left the traditional church and found/realized that true fellowship in those personal relationships.

      I hope that people are encouraged by reading my blog. Encouraged if they have suffered abuse,if they need to learn to recognize abusive behavior in themselves or in others, if they just need to know that God loves them.

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