Question: Should Hebrews 10:25 be used to demand that Believers go to what many people call “church”?
Short answer: Nope! Longer answer: Keep reading.
Hebrews 10:25 New King James Version (NKJV)
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."
What is this verse really saying?
My opinion merged with Wayne's thoughts:
Believers gathering together for worship can be an important part of our life together, but in my view, the relationships we maintain throughout the week are far more important and in most cases, far more genuine. It is my opinion this verse in Hebrews is speaking of how we assemble our lives together in relationships that support and encourage one another. Considering these early Believers had no concept of what modern church gatherings would eventually morph into, it is highly unlikely the writer is speaking of how/when we would meet.
Also consider these thoughts:
Early Christians did not go to church, they were the church; they did not attend "church services", they impacted their culture as the people of God. They assembled not as the end goal, but as a way to equip themselves to be the people God intended them to be and do the work God intended them to do.
There’s nothing in the New Testament stating or commanding us to join in a formal “get your best church clothes on” service on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.
There is ZERO precedent for this thing we call a “service” found anywhere in the New Testament. Nowhere in the New Testament is there “Sunday school” followed by a “Call to Worship” followed by singing/standing up and sitting down several times for various reasons/listening to one guy give a monologue/more singing/whatever else is thrown in for good measure, (altar call, etc.)
In fact, this is completely contrary to 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 which states,
“Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.
No more than two or three should speak in tongues. They must speak one at a time, and someone must interpret what they say. But if no one is present who can interpret, they must be silent in your church meeting and speak in tongues to God privately.
Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said. But if someone is prophesying and another person receives a revelation from the Lord, the one who is speaking must stop. In this way, all who prophesy will have a turn to speak, one after the other, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged. Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can take turns. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s holy people.”
So how does sitting on pews side by side facing a guy on an elevated stage qualify as a great way to “exhort one another”? When you gather with friends for dinner, do you sit that way? When you go out for coffee to share time with friends, do you sit that way? Nope! You sit that way in classrooms and concerts. The focus is on the show up front, not each other. Some might say, “Well we’re learning from the speaker.” Maybe you are picking up tidbits from the guy up front, but if you’re confused or have a question, can you stop the show to inquire of the guy speaking? You could, but you’d be considered rude and disruptive. So, when a student has a question in class, is it rude or disruptive for them to raise their hand and inquire of the teacher? Goodness no! That’s the way it’s supposed to work! In fact, any teacher that never allows their students to ask questions would be considered a fairly crappy teacher!
So what constitutes that Hebrews 10:25 has been fulfilled if going to church is the standard? Is Sunday morning enough, or must I attend Sunday night and Wednesdays to be considered in alignment with those who say this scripture is fulfilled by church service attendance? How much “attendance” is enough? Also, how many people need to be together to ensure we’ve properly “gathered”? 5, 10, 15, 100, 200? What’s the number? Jesus said, “If two or three are gathered together in my name, I will be in their midst.”
If this is true, how can a church service be “the way” we fulfill Hebrews 10:25? If there’s only two of us, it’s going to be a busy morning for us come Sunday. Somebody’s going to have to lead the worship, teach Sunday school, take up the offering, hand out bulletins, greet people (of course, there's only two), preach the sermon, etc. Not to mention all the other jobs like running the sound, adjusting the lights, serving Communion, etc. Can you imagine two folks running around a room trying to make sure they are properly fulfilling all that mess? I surely cannot, but would love to see it! It would be hilarious!
The reality is, there are thousands and thousands of people who go “to church” every week, sit on pews, do all the stuff, and never ever experience anything that would even remotely feel or look like what God indeed calls us to in Hebrews 10:25. That being exhortation. Which in its most basic form simply means to encourage one another. And the last time I checked, encouragement can take on many forms, but often is best received from dear souls that we can look at eye to eye/heart to heart, and know they truly care for us. Who knows? Maybe our Lord actually knew what He was talking about when He spoke of gathering with two or three other folks.
Bottom line: If you feel true heart to heart exhortation sitting on the pew, by all means keep doing what you're doing. It's not wrong. Just don’t assume your standard of what you feel works for you is "God's way" of doing things. It may work fine for you, but for many, it is an empty pursuit and completely devoid of life.
Again, before you leave me a "snarky" comment, please know I’m not saying going to a church is bad, wrong, or a waste of time for SOME people, but if you push the idea that going to a local church service is “the way" to fulfill what’s being shared in Hebrews 10:25, you are unfortunately quite incorrect and likely quite religious.