About six years ago, I accepted this position on staff as Director of Women’s Ministry. At about that same time, our Church began defining our mission as Reach, Gather, Grow, and Back to Reach, taken from the Great Commission in Matthew chapter 28. Since then, we have revisited this topic every September and January. These months are typically when believers reassess their priorities and set goals.
As I write, it is January 6th. I recently returned from vacation and set out to begin preparing for another year of study. I reached in the box and pulled out the new book: Reach, Gather, Grow. Full disclosure: I rolled my eyes and thought, “Not again.” To add to my weariness, I needed to write this devotion on gathering. I began seeking God’s guidance in writing about an “old” topic in a fresh way. God is so good and so very faithful. He managed to teach me a new truth.
Six years ago, I was frustrated. Our pastor was frequently preaching on “What the church is not.” He frequently reminded us that we are members of one body, each having a specific gift we are meant to use to grow His Church. Though these truths are very important, I found myself thinking, “This is not deep enough” or “I am not being fed.” I was not growing spiritually, but my attitude was growing worse. Through the teaching of our mission, God taught me that my Sunday gathering is not meant to be my time in the Word. My Growth Community and Bible study is the primary place to grow.
Several years later, I began to get frustrated again. This time I started to resent the interruptions during “my” gathering time to assist ladies with their needs. The Lord stepped in and pointed me to a second truth. We are called to “meet together,” “encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:25), and “count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Ouch! It was difficult for this selfish believer to receive and yet another important truth.
The third truth is the icing on the cake. Over the last week, I have started revisiting our mission, and God faithfully brought me to a passage. Psalm 84:1-2 says, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.”
My commentary suggests this Psalm was written by a Jewish man who was unable to go to the temple (Church). In those days, Jews were expected to travel three times a year to the temple. It was not like today, where believers can enter the throne room of God any time, any place. The presence of God was believed to be only in the temple. Scripture teaches us that for some, this required months of travel by foot, through desert conditions while navigating dangerous animals and situations. This puts a lot in perspective. I have been convicted about those times when I did not want to leave my warm home to drive ten miles to the gathering time that fit my schedule. I am really hoping someone else can identify with this. As you read on, you realize this man views the temple as his home, like “the sparrow finds a home” (verse 3) and values this time greatly, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (verse 10). Clearly, the longing of this believer’s heart was to be in the house of God.
I realized I have a lot in common with this gentleman. My flight on Christmas Eve landed at 4:45, and my first concern was whether or not we would make it to the last gathering. Many of the people at church were strangers as friends were traveling, and I was surrounded by the unfamiliar faces of out of town guests. Honestly, I enjoyed my uninterrupted opportunity to worship my Savior, and it was so good to be home.
It is true that a word of encouragement on Sunday morning is important, but the gathering was not meant to be my sole opportunity to grow in His Word. It is true that we are called to gather with and encourage those around us, but not at the expense of our personal worship time with God. Hence, I needed to find balance.
Believer, what is the desire of your heart? Is gathering with the saints a priority? Do you fall in the category of believers who do not want to get up early on their one day off, do not want to battle the snow or fight the traffic, or would rather serve because you learn just as much online or have to get your child to travel sports? There are many excuses, but when all is said and done, we rob ourselves when we choose not to worship and fellowship with God.
Free Commercial: if you are racing (or floating) into gathering after prayer and worship, you have missed Him!