The Value of Encouragement
Wherefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as also ye do (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Recent research has confirmed a trend that has been quite evident for some time: people are not going to church these days like they did in the past. Many people attend assemblies of churches very rarely. Others have come to the conclusion that they do not need to belong to a church to be a Christian. It is not as if everyone has turned their backs on God and have rejected the claims of Jesus– they find value in Jesus, but not in church.
Sadly, this trend is understandable. Many churches have turned their assemblies into a collection of lifeless rituals. Other churches have gone along with trends in society and just offer another venue for entertainment: their assemblies are really performances. For generations too many went to church only for social reasons. When the church does not seem to offer much, is not participatory, and is no longer a social hub, it is clear why so many no longer attend religious assemblies.
Is the problem with God or with Jesus? Absolutely not. The New Testament does not provide the impression that the assemblies of Christians were designed to be performances or merely social occasions. Instead, the Bible makes it clear that the assemblies were intended to be opportunities for Christians to encourage each other in their faith (1 Corinthians 14:26, Hebrews 10:24-25), and that the church is much more than just its assemblies (1 Corinthians 12:12-28)!
While we might feel better when we tell ourselves that we are independent people and do not need the help of others, we should all recognize that we are all weak at many times in our lives. Our spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak (cf. Matthew 26:41). Our Adversary is too strong for us as individuals to stand against him (cf. 1 Peter 5:8)– if we have a chance, it is because we are there to strengthen one another in the faith (1 Corinthians 12:12-28, 1 John 1:5-7).
Therefore there is great value in encouragement. When we are weak, others can lift us up, and we can lift others up in return when they are weak. We are all better off because we have one another. But that can only be the case if we actually have one another and know one another and are active in the lives of one another!
And that is why God, in His wisdom, established local congregations for His people– a group of Christians who would assemble frequently to strengthen and build one another up in the faith (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:26, Hebrews 10:24-25). In assemblies, they pray together, sing together, jointly participate in the Lord’s Supper, give for the needs of the congregation, study God’s Word, and hear it preached (Acts 2:42, 20:7, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 11:23-26, 14:17, 16:1-3). But the local congregation is supposed to be more than just assemblies– Christians also get together at other opportunities to strengthen one another, and the church is to become more like family than a social club or organization.
Perhaps you believe in Jesus Christ but have been turned off by various churches or do not feel that the church is necessary. Please consider, however, how important it is to encourage and be encouraged. Come and be a part of our family!
Ethan R. Longhenry