In Alma 6, Alma establishes some order to the church in the capital city of Zarahemla, ordaining ministers and getting the membership roles in order. As the overall leader of the church, he recognizes that he will need to travel around and provide support to the churches in the various Nephite cities, so he wants to make sure the church in Zarahemla can function in his absence. Among the instructions he gives to the church members:
“The children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God” (Alma 6:6)
Perhaps it seems basic that Alma would tell the church members to have church meetings. However, there was a stated purpose for these gatherings: to fast and pray for souls who didn’t know God. Since the children of God at that time had a desire for all to come to a knowledge of the Lord, this stated purpose gave them incentive to gather together oft.
In a similar manner, we, the children of God today, have incentive to attend church meetings if we understand the purpose of gathering together.
First of all, let’s understand that the purpose of attending a church meeting is not:
- To earn some type of reward from God in the coming week (or avoid a punishment)
- To prevent people from talking about us because we’re not there
- To show off our new clothing outfit
What is the purpose of attending a church meeting? Any from this list can qualify:
- To hear the Word of God preached
- To hear testimonies of God’s goodness
- To sing hymns
- To be prayed for when sick
- To partake of the Lord’s Supper
- To feel close to God
These are all worthwhile purposes and can surely be accomplished by attending church meetings. However, is attending church the only way to accomplish these purposes? With sermons and testimonies posted online, we can easily experience those without leaving home. We can sing along with recorded music at home or in the car. If we’re sick, ministers are willing to come to our home and pray for us, perhaps even bringing the Lord’s Supper. God is everywhere, so we can feel close to God wherever we are. So, is it any wonder that people often say, “I don’t need to go to church; I can serve God at home”?
The thing to keep in mind regarding the purposes listed above — as worthwhile as they are — is that they all have one thing in common. They’re all about me and my personal relationship with God. Although there may be some people in church I can learn from or who I enjoy spending time with, I may view gathering together with other church members as more of a luxury than a necessity when it comes to serving God.
In order to appreciate the value — the necessity, the criticality — of gathering together as often as possible, we need to adopt the philosophy of serving God by serving others. By thinking this way, I can realize that If I’m not at church, I can’t:
- Show my love to the family of God by exchanging hugs, smiles, kind words, etc.
- Let others know about God’s goodness in my life by giving my testimony
- Share the knowledge I’ve been blessed with by preaching, teaching, or participating in a Sunday school discussion
- Share advice or comfort to those who need it
- Help new people to feel welcome
- Add my voice to the congregational singing
- Add my prayer to a fasting and prayer initiative
- Allow God to work through me to be a blessing to others
Whenever thinking about whether or not to attend church, consider who in the congregation will miss out on any of the above if you’re not there. Think about a new person attending and deciding not to return when you could’ve made a difference for that person. Think about someone missing out on the blessing you could’ve provided.
God has called you into the church not only to save your soul but also to be used as an instrument to help build the kingdom of God. Gather together oft with the people of God, and allow Him to use you as He desires.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.