When we plan a party and invite a number of our friends to come, we anticipate the joy we will experience in the company of our invited guests. As the guests arrive and the party begins, our spirits rise with the camaraderie of the occasion. If for some reason one of our friends is unable to attend, we still have a good time, but we may later remark to that friend, “It wasn’t the same without you.”
When we make this statement, we are acknowledging the special bond that exists between ourselves and that particular friend. We are telling that person that his or her company enhances the enjoyment of such an occasion, and that his or her absence materially detracts from it. Most of the time, the one to whom we make this statement will take it as a compliment, and will try harder not to disappoint us in the future.
While we generally understand and acknowledge this truth in our secular affairs, we may not be as aware of it in our spiritual pursuits. Those who are Christians have a long-standing invitation to meet with the Lord on His day to offer up our worship to His holy name. Our purpose for meeting and our focus of attention in such an assembly is to offer pleasing worship to God. If He is not the object of our assembly, then we have missed the point of meeting together.
At the same time, however, there is more to our assembly than just a group of disconnected individuals offering individual worship to God. We see this from the manner in which Paul spoke of certain aspects of our corporate worship. In Eph. 5:19 he spoke of us “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” In Col. 3:16, he said we must be “teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” The point is that each person in the assembly contributes to the edification of every other person in the assembly as we join our hearts and minds and voices in worship to God. When someone is missing from the assembly, it is not the same as when they are present.
The effect that each person has in the assembly is illustrated by the story about a church building that had no lights. As the members headed to the building for worship, each one brought his own lantern. When a visitor to that city asked why they did this, one of them replied, “There are no lights in our building, so each of us brings a lamp. The more of us who are present the brighter the light inside.”
The spiritual application of this story is that each one of us contributes to the “light” that pervades our worship assemblies. The more of us who are present the brighter that light. At the same time, however, each one who is not present diminishes the light in our assembly. And this is the lesson we should take from this story. When we are absent from the assembly, it is not the same for those who are present.
In Heb. 10:23-25 the writer said, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” We are called upon as Christians to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” We cannot do this if we are absent from the worship assemblies. Willfully neglecting the assembly robs one’s fellow Christians of some of the joy of being in the company of his brothers and sisters in Christ. Someone once wrote, “What is missing from CH _ _ CH? UR!” In the assembly of the saints, our worship is not the same without you.