Craig Blomberg has a post titled “Why Go to Church?” that has some important observations….as far as they go. He notes that “people are abandoning regular church attendance in record numbers” and with little regret. Hebrews 10, says Blomberg, takes their departure seriously. Specifically he means Hebrews 10:24-25, which reads

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Reasons for giving up on regular, weekly gatherings are typically “pathetic” and “anthropocentric” rather than “Christocentric.” In other words, many who give up on the weekly gatherings do so out of selfish motives. Moreover, in today’s consumer culture some have become “victims of choices.” Due to the advent of personal transportation, we can easily shop for other churches until our preferences for worship music or Sunday School class schedules are satisfied. Instead, Blomberg admonishes, we should go to church for what we can give rather than for what we can get. Instead of maintaining a balance sheet of how much encouragement or gratitude we can receive, we should seek to administer the gifts that God has given us for the sake of encouraging others.

These observations I can hardly deny. They’re thoroughly biblical. But, I have to ask: Why is it that when people choose to depart from a church for whatever reason, that Hebrews 10:24-25 is so quickly employed to apply to those departing and not to those remaining? Since the Word of God is likened to a double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), couldn’t Hebrews 10:24-25 cut both ways? Shouldn’t the exhortation to “spur [or “arouse” or “provoke”] one another on toward love and good deeds” apply to everyone? In fact does it not apply to everyone? Isn’t this concern mutual, just as the “let us” and “we” implies?

I agree with Blomberg’s thesis that we should go to church for what we can give rather than for what we can get. Yet, I confess that I go to church not just to give but to receive encouragement toward love and good deeds and I’m unconvinced this is wrong of me. If others in the church are repeatedly apathetic toward what I have to give, then it’s highly unlikely that is a church I need to continue attending. For Blomberg’s thesis to work successfully, there must be a mutual exchange of “love and good deeds” if Hebrews 10:24-25 means what it says.

And, where is leadership in all of this? Are they merely pointing the Hebrews 10:24-25 finger at those who are departing or is their  finger pointing inward as well as outward?

A sad illustration of this one-sidedness is from Mark Driscoll who points the finger in one direction only. He rightly claims that church should feel like a family, but short-sightedly insists that if it does not, then it’s the fault of those who are not serving in the church. Not once does he ask why people may not be serving! Don’t get me wrong. I believe Driscoll is correct….as far as he goes. We’ve all known “balcony” believers (to coin a J. I. Packer phrase) who sit passively by expecting to be waited on by the church and fill out their complaint card (if only in their minds) at the end of every worship service. I suppose those people have earned the right to feel excluded.

But I would argue these kind of people Driscoll targets are a very small percentage of those who are not serving in the church. What about those who have been deeply hurt by the church or profoundly wounded by life but who continue going to church hoping to connect with others only to feel excluded by the church? Is it necessarily their fault for not feeling included?

Think about it. Don’t just greet me at the door, hand me a bulletin, do a high-five as you walk by on your way to talk to someone you’ve known for years! How dare you say it’s my fault for not being more involved when you seemingly don’t give a rip! How dare you use Scripture to charge me with apathy when you yourselves are apathetic about why I’m not involved! How dare you not show me the common courtesy of asking how I am, pause long enough to look me in the eye, and mean it! Of course we all should go to church to serve the living God, but we do this with others and for others because “others” are God’s church! Everyone of us!

I fear Driscoll is unknowingly (or knowingly) accommodating a kind of group-think where one group vilifies or even demonizes the other. If you’re not with me, you’re against me. If you’re not feeling included, then there’s something wrong with you (After all, it couldn’t be that I’m partly to blame by failing to intentionally and personally reach out to you.). Instead of doing the kind of hard pastoral and prayerful analysis necessary to gain insight into people’s lives, Driscoll plays the shame game. Ask yourself: “Am I earnestly wrestling with why some are not more engaged in the ‘family’ or do I just point my biblical finger at them?

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