Have you ever watched someone gradually walk away from going to church? I have. It can resemble losing a language.
Maybe it starts with a church problem; an offense that leads to bitterness. Perhaps it's a trial which weighs you down. Or maybe you have so much going on that church interferes with your schedule. Whatever it is, attendance becomes sporadic. Pretty soon, it gets easier and easier to stop going. And then it becomes awkward because you've been away for so long. You may think it's not a big deal; after all we don't have to attend church to be a Christian, right?
It is a big deal. And I'm not talking about people who are shut in because of health or disabilities; I'm talking about people who can go, but don't.
Not attending church means forsaking hearing the preached Word of God and participating in church ordinances. It means excluding yourself from the fellowship of other Christians. It means removing yourself from the accountability of your sisters and brothers in Christ. It means cutting yourself off from the voices of the people of God.
When you don't hear those voices often, you stop understanding them. The words sound familiar, but it's a little hazy now. You aren't comfortable using that language anymore. When you hear others speaking it, you have a vague idea what's going on, but it's just a jumble, so you stop listening.
If we live severed from the people of God, it is only a matter of time before we become more comfortable with the language of the world. Our conduct changes; what is important to us changes; our choices change. Just as fellowship with the body of Christ helps us grow and is reflected in our lives, absence from the body will show, too. Suddenly, truths we took for granted at one time become open for debate. When others speak to us with concern about our choices, we don't want to hear it. It's like they are speaking another language.
The writer to the Hebrews says in 10:23-25:
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."Life in the body of Christ, in worship, service, and fellowship is part of holding fast our confession. We live in this way because of what we believe. It is a statement to the world that we are the body of Christ. Attending church on a regular basis and being part of a local assembly is not just about hanging out with like-minded people; it's about the confession we hold. We may feel justified in staying away, or think we have all the time in the world, but if we stay away, not only will we stop growing, we will begin to atrophy.
I love the church. I love the reality that we are united together with others who share our faith. No church is perfect. If we feel like we can't stay at one church for doctrinal reasons, we ought to find another one to attend. We are stronger with the body than apart from it. When we are plugged into a local assembly and speaking the words of life to one another, we are not in danger of losing our language.