Not Getting Anything Out of the Assembly

Worship

I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1).

David expressed the attitude that we must have when it comes to assembling to worship the Lord – gladness. The assembly of the saints ought to be something to which we look forward.

Unfortunately, many do not look forward to this time. But rather than acknowledging their own poor attitude and making efforts to change their mindset, they often attempt to shift the blame to others. They will say, “I’m not getting anything out of the assembly!” In their minds, this provides justification for them to complain, become sporadic in their attendance, or quit assembling altogether.

In this article, we will focus on the attitude of one who claims to be getting nothing out of the assembly of the church. It is a dangerous attitude and we must guard ourselves against it.

Problem of Perspective

When one complains about not getting anything out of the assembly, he demonstrates that he has a misplaced focus. This mindset elevates self above what one ought to think (cf. Romans 12:3).

Jesus said we are to put God first and others second: “And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39). This principle of putting God and others ahead of ourselves applies to the assembly as well. We are to worship God (John 4:23-24), recognizing that He is worthy of such worship (Revelation 4:11). Besides that, we also come together to encourage our brethren (Hebrews 10:24-25).

When one chooses not to assemble because he does not “get anything out of it,” he does two things. First, he fails to worship God as he should. Second, he fails to encourage his brethren as he should. These two things should take precedence over anything we might get out of the assembly for ourselves.

Of course, this does not mean we should expect to get nothing out of the assembly (we will discuss this point later in the article). But we need to be sure our priorities are in order. Both God and our brethren ought to come before ourselves.

What We Do in the Assembly

When we consider what we are to do in the assembly, it becomes clear that the focus is not on self. The acts described in the New Testament as being performed by the early church in the assembly were all focused on God, the brethren, or both. So besides the general terms of worship (John 4:24) and encourage (Hebrews 10:25), what are we to do in the assembly?

  • Sing – “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). Singing is directed to both God and our brethren. Paul said we sing to God with thankfulness in our hearts. We also sing to our brethren in order to teach and admonish them through song.
  • Pray – “They were continually devoting themselves…to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Prayer is, of course, directed to God (Acts 12:5; Philippians 4:6). However, there is also a benefit to the congregation as prayer can be a source of instruction (Acts 4:24-28), encouragement (Ephesians 6:18-19), and peace (Philippians 4:7).
  • Preach/teach – “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7). One who will “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2) in the assembly directs his message toward his brethren. Whenever one speaks “as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11, KJV), his message is profitable to them (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Acts 20:20, 27). In addition to teaching and encouraging the audience, the preacher also brings glory to God (1 Peter 4:11).
  • Partake of the Lord’s Supper – “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). When we observe the Lord’s Supper, we focus on God and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Additionally, we also help remind our brethren of this sacrifice as we “proclaim the Lord’s death” when we partake.
  • Give – “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). When we give of our means, we do so for God as He “loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). We also do this for “the saints” (1 Corinthians 16:1; 2 Corinthians 9:12-13) as others benefit from our contributions.

Again, as we consider the things we are to do in the assembly, we see that our focus is not to be on ourselves and what we get out of it. Our focus must be on God first and our brethren second.

Should We Get Something Out of the Assembly?

Yes! We should get something out of the assembly. But what we get out of the assembly is a byproduct of what we put into the assembly.

  • As we sing to teach and admonish our brethren, we are taught and admonished as well (Colossians 3:16).
  • Through the prayers that are offered, we can obtain “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension” (Philippians 4:7).
  • When preaching is done, we learn or are reminded of the truth of God’s word (2 Timothy 4:2).
  • When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded of the sacrifice of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
  • When we give, we have fellowship in the work of the church (Acts 2:42; 4:32-35; Philippians 4:15-16).

Our focus must be on worshipping God and encouraging our brethren (John 4:24; Hebrews 10:24-25). As a byproduct, we are also taught, admonished, reminded, and encouraged.

Conclusion

There may be times when we are truly not getting what we need out of the assembly. But it must not be due to a lack of effort on our part. The only time when this will truly happen will be when the church with which we assemble is simply not interested in serving God according to His word. In that case, if we cannot help steer them back “from where [they] have fallen” (Revelation 2:5), then we need to leave and find a congregation that is striving to follow the New Testament pattern (2 Timothy 1:13).

But if we feel as though we are not getting anything out of the assembly, we first need to examine ourselves and ask: What can I do? What can I contribute? How can I help? As each part of the body works together, we will all be built up (Ephesians 4:16). Let us first focus on worshiping God according to His will and encouraging our brethren in the faith. As we do this together in our various congregations, we will all benefit from our assemblies.


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