Don't Scatter ... Gather!
This article is Part 1 of a two-part series on gathering together as saints of God.
There are 168 hours in a week. I spend one hour at Church on Wednesday night and roughly four hours at Church on Sunday for both Sunday School and the service. And when I did the math, I couldn't believe that I am only with the saints of God a grand total of 3 percent of my week.
Wait, that's it?
Why does it seem like a lot more?
Let's put it into perspective. I'm at work anywhere from 40 to 50 hours a week, which calculates to about 25 percent of my time. I exercise and spend time prepping meals, which take up another 10 to 15 percent of my time. So, how do my two quick trips to God's house seem like they're such a big commitment? If I attend the minimum of Church meetings, I am only at Church with God's people a total of 11 days a year.
In 2014, The New York Times reported that the average American adult spends 11 hours a day with electronic media (television, phone, tablet, etc.). That's over 167 days a year. Maybe it's time I take a look at how much time I spend with God doing something that He definitely wants me to do: gather!
Why and how should I gather?
Hebrews 10 encourages the saints to hold fast to the faith: "Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together." Essentially, we're stronger together. God strengthens The Church when we meet together, and we strengthen each other and promote righteousness. Also, in Alma 6:6 it explains, "Nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer."
Make It a Lifestyle
When I grew up, going to Church wasn't a routine; it was just what we did. I don't think my parents ever told me I had to go to Church or made it a rule. We went because we wanted to be with family, and there was no other place we would rather be. Church was built into my childhood just like doctor's appointments, piano lessons, and school. There was never a chance of us not going, and my parents made sure any function within 200 miles was not "too far to travel" for us to be with the saints of God. There was (and still is) an excitement about being with God's wonderful people, to hear words of inspiration, to witness a healing or hear a miraculous testimony.
Looking back, I now realize my life revolved around Church instead of the other way around, thanks to my parents, and now I have the opportunity to choose my own life balance. So what'll it be?
The Journey Was(n't) Easy
Sometimes, the opposition throws a wrench into our plans to attend Church. I think about all those times Paul tried to gather with the saints and he got imprisoned or persecuted or even shipwrecked. But the conversions and the blessings that followed were legendary.
I heard a story of a Sister who was married to a man who didn't like The Church. He hid her clothes on Sunday morning so she couldn't attend. For many years, she was unable to gather with the saints. The Sunday after her husband passed away, after over three decades away from Church, she was back in Church without missing a beat and was faithful until the end. She never lost the spirit of gathering.
What Keeps Us Away?
My new job, for starters! The first few weeks in October, I "wasn't able to make it to Church" on Wednesday night because I was too busy with work tasks. It wasn't a good excuse. I told my new boss I couldn't work Sundays because I attended Church ... I just didn't want to mention Wednesday night because I thought it would be "too much to ask." But I certainly can't live off the scraps from the table.
As soon as I committed to gathering for the good of my soul, the decision to go or not wasn't difficult. God is worth my time. God is important enough. Not attending Church was the real sacrifice. Since then, God has provided a way each Wednesday for me to finish my tasks and leave on time to attend Church. I certainly can't afford to be the reason that I miss being with the saints, partaking in ordinances, or being part of blessings.
Gather, Don't Scatter
Luke 11:23 says, "He that is not with me is against me; he that gathereth not with me scattereth." The word "scatter" implies random direction, and I don't ever want to find myself drifting and wandering, as the song says.
But wait, what about all of my well-used excuses? There's too much traffic. I have errands. I might miss my football game. I have too much homework. I'll go next Sunday. It's just a branch meeting.
But when I finally get to Church, aren't I so thankful I went? Wasn't that message just for me and that scripture reference the answer I've been searching for all week? God's commandment to gather wasn't given in a because-I-said-so spirit; it was given because He's been here in our shoes and He knows how much our fellowship with Him and the saints will feed our souls.
Check in on Thursday for Part 2 in this series, "Ways to Revive That Gathering Spirit."
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.