Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE DONE HAD YOU BEEN AT CHURCH”

Hebrews 10.25

 (Message delivered at Faith Baptist Church, Kearney, Nebraska on the morning of November 18, 2012)

One of the most important disciplines of the Christian faith is faithful church attendance. Though its importance is minimized by contemporary evangelicalism, the gathering of the saints is one of the hallmarks of Christian behavior, as we find in our text for this morning, Hebrews 10.25: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Who are the “some” the writer of Hebrews refers to who have forsaken the assembly, who do not gather when the saints gather, who have other things to do when folks gather for preaching, teaching, evangelism, and fellowship? Our inspired author may have had in mind some who feared persecution, or others who were wavering in their commitment to the cause of Jesus Christ. In our place and day, however, this would likely refer to those who think themselves without need of that which God has chosen to supply through His church, who think they have no need of grace being ministered to them, who think they need no exhortation to remain steadfast as the day approaches, and who feel that so little is expected of them that they think they neither miss anything nor are missed by their absence from the assembly.

Rather than viewing the benefits of the assembly from your perspective, I thought it might be advantageous for us to follow the lead of Ezekiel, who wrote in Ezekiel 3.15, “I sat where they sat . . . .” Many a great missions messages have been preached from Ezekiel 3.15, but I want to take the principle of sitting where others sit to set before you a consideration of others who attend church. We have visitors in our services rather frequently. How do you suppose our text affects them? We know that “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching,” speaks directly to us about our ministry to each other in the assembly. However, there is benefit from considering the lost who are present when you are absent. There is profit from considering the hypothetical, the what might have been. Therefore, I would like to spend our time this morning in consideration of the Christian’s ministry to the visitor . . . had you been here for him.

Allow me to speak for the silent ones. Allow me to chime in for those who miss your absence, but really do not know what they have missed. When you plan to take time away from the church house to do something else, have you ever in the past, will you consider in the future, what you give up for what you seek to gain? I would not dare suggest that there are not valid reasons for absenting yourself from the assembly. However, have you ever considered what you forego by your inattendance, what opportunities are lost by your decision to take a meal with folks you could eat with anytime instead of church time, and what consequences at the Judgment Seat of Christ will result from you not counting the cost of absenting yourself from assembling? I speak for the visitor who was here when you were not here, or when you were here but you kept to yourself:

First, HAD YOU BEEN AT CHURCH YOU MIGHT HAVE GREETED ME

I came to church that morning, filled with awkward self-consciousness. I was scared to get out of my car. I was fearful to walk through the front door to face all those strangers. I don’t meet new people very well, even though I am quite lonely. Reluctant to talk at first, I find that I soon turn into a chatter box because I am so uncomfortable and unused to talking to people in a church setting. However, I mustered my courage and arrived early. I put on my face of confidence that fools so many people. Friendly folks approached me from time to time before the service began, but they always smiled, shook my hand, and then walked back over to their spouses and seemed to put me out of their mind.

I met one very nice person after church. We talked for a few minutes, but I had already made up my mind by the time the song leader asked us to stand and sing that I would not come back. Had you been at church that day, you might have greeted me. You see, like most visitors, I decided whether I would ever come back to the church before the church service actually began. Perhaps you were at church that day, but you did not arrive early enough to greet me before I decided not to come back again. Because of that, we will never meet, and I will never come back.

Next, HAD YOU BEEN AT CHURCH YOU MIGHT HAVE BEFRIENDED ME

I do not really think you know what it is like to visit a church as a stranger who does not know anyone. It is very likely that you grew up in church, and do not know what it feels like not to belong and not to know everyone. Perhaps you once visited, long ago, but you have since forgotten the fright and the despair I felt during my visit. Maybe that explains why you were not there to befriend me. There were some people who seemed nice, at first, but they left me sitting alone after shaking my hand. They got my hopes up that I would not have to sit alone, and then went back to whom they arrived with and were used to sitting with. They amused themselves with those they know, while leaving me to myself.

What about me? I have no friends. Do you not realize that just about everyone who visits a church alone is, in some sense, desperate? Have you no idea how lonely I am? Have you no interest in me? You have friends, more than enough friends. Why, then, could you not come and befriend me for an hour? Was the visiting pastor correct when he said that the Christian life is not all about you, but about the Lord and about others? If he was right, if you agree in principle with what he said, was it really that important for you to absent yourself from church, and to deprive me of friendship that I might have had for one hour, the only friendship I have experienced in recent memory?

You have buddies and pals. Perhaps you enjoy the company of your spouse and children. Is it really so much to come to church and expect you to be my friend for an hour or so? Is your relationship with those you spend so much of your time with so fragile that you cannot spare an hour at church with me when I visit your services? Oh, how I long for a friend. How I crave the friendship of people who are roughly of my age and situation. What must I do, how must I act, for you to come and sit with me and be my friend? Please do not ask me to come and sit with you, for that terrifies me. Do not ask me to join your group, for the thought of that horrifies me. I need you to come and sit with me. Not too close, mind you, but close enough to be my friend while I am here.

Third, HAD YOU BEEN AT CHURCH YOU MIGHT HAVE TAUGHT ME HOW TO SING A HYMN

I have never been to church before. I do not own a Bible and I have never sung from a hymnal. I did pretty well through the first line of the song, but then I get lost and did not know where the words were everyone else was singing. If you had been at church when I was there, you could have taught me how to sing from a hymnal by tracking your finger along where I could glance over and see where the next line of lyrics can be found. It would have been so easy for you, had you only been here, and had you only been sitting next to me instead of not being there, or instead of being where you always sit.

I once attended church and a man stood up and crossed the aisle to hand me his Bible. I know he was trying to be helpful, but he terribly embarrassed me. If you had been there, you could have simply shared your Bible with me, as well as showed me how to use a hymnal.

Fourth, HAD YOU BEEN AT CHURCH YOU MIGHT HAVE LED ME TO ATTENTIVELY LISTEN TO THE SERMON

In Acts 10.33, we see the centurion Cornelius express his eagerness to hear Peter preach the Word of God to him. However, I do not come from an oral culture where one is experienced and skilled at listening to someone speak for a long time. My attention span is shortened by my television viewing habits, and the amount of time I spend in front of a computer screen. How important it was, then, for you to have shown me by your example of expectant body language, and the interested expression on your face, how I should have attentively listened to the sermon. I only know how to listen passively, but you were not there to show me how to sit, how to get into a sermon, and how to take it all in actively instead of passively.

Too bad, too. I am not sure I will ever hear a sermon like that again. It is sad that my attention span and ignorance about how to really listen to a sermon prevented me from taking it all in. Instead, the sermon bored me. Who knows how much it might have meant to me had you been in church when I was there, to lead me to actively listen to the sermon.

Fifth, HAD YOU BEEN AT CHURCH YOU MIGHT HAVE PREACHED TO ME

I do not mean that you would have preached a sermon like the pastor preached. I speak of First Corinthians 14.24-25, where the Apostle Paul talked about the influence you might have had during the preaching on someone like me, one who believes not, one who is unlearned. Listen to Paul’s words:

24     But if . . . there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:

25     And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

I would like to think that your response to the preacher and his message, your attentiveness, your eagerness to receive the message from God, and your appropriate amens and nods, would have carried me along through the message and born witness to the truth that was declared. But none of that happened . . . because you were not there. To be sure, other people have responsibilities in the church house to have a favorable impact on visitors, and it is not only you. However, the others are not you, and I would have been most responsive to you and no one else.

Sixth, HAD YOU BEEN AT CHURCH YOU MIGHT HAVE TAUGHT ME AN IMPORTANT DOCTRINE

I never much thought about the deity of Jesus Christ, or whether God is a Trinity. It always seemed to me that the Bible was just another book among books. So, when the preacher made mention of those important truths, I rather took his comments with a grain of salt. Had I been sitting next to my newly found friend, I might have been affected by your reaction to those truths being declared. It might have burned into my memory had you quickly turned to look at me and nod your approval before looking back to the preacher. That would have affected me. I would have taken that home with me to consider more fully . . . had you been there.

However, instead of teaching me an important doctrine, you enjoyed a nice meal with friends who learned long ago what I do not yet understand. While you were relaxing after a hard week, an opportunity to drive a point home in my mind by showing solidarity with the preacher was missed. The result? I decided to go back to that church where doctrine is minimized, and where such things as the Trinity and the deity of Christ are not as forcefully presented.

Seventh, HAD YOU BEEN THERE YOU MIGHT HAVE TAUGHT ME TO GIVE

They passed some kind of bowl around while everyone sang a song about something or other. Most of the people dropped envelopes into the basket, but some people dropped cash. It was my first time noticing, really noticing, this thing called an offering. It is one thing to observe strangers putting money into a bowl that is passed around, but it is quite another thing to see someone you have just met, someone you kinda like, someone who is a new friend, giving to the cause of Christ. However, I would not know. You weren’t there when I was there. When the bowl was passed my way, I was alone.

Eighth, HAD YOU BEEN AT CHURCH YOU MIGHT HAVE TAUGHT ME THE IMPORTANCE OF FELLOWSHIP

I do not know what fellowship is. I have never experienced real communion, where meaningful interactions of fellow human beings take place. I do not know what it is for someone to be truly interested in my welfare. I have never experienced such a thing. Sadly, when I came to church, tried to sing the songs and sat through the preaching, and then went outside after the service, I went home still not knowing what fellowship was like, or the importance of it. I remember standing there by myself for a moment, lonely in the midst of a number of people, and feeling completely isolated.

The pastor and the song leader tried to coax me to go next door to join the crowd for some fellowship, but I noticed that quite a number of people didn’t think it was important to do that, so I just went home. If fellowship is not important to them, I thought, it must not be important. Little did I realize at the time, what I might have realized had you been there, that fellowship is terribly important to soften the stony heart and reach the lost like me.

Ninth, HAD YOU BEEN THERE YOU MIGHT HAVE ENCOURAGED MY BROKEN HEART

Hebrews 10.25 speaks of exhorting one another, and it refers to Christians exhorting other believers. However, there is something to be said for a believer encouraging the lost, by giving some evidence of the possibility of a brighter future for someone like me. It is not that I expect you to open up to me and pour out every sordid detail of your life before you became a Christian. After all, you do not know me, and it is really none of my business. However, people like me, who are so desperately lonely and lost, need some glimmer of hope that life does not have to be the way my life is.

Could you not have exchanged a warm smile and a hand shake? Could you not have mumbled an affirmation when the preacher made mention of God’s love for the sinner? Could you not have let me know that God’s plan might include me? You might have, had you been at church that service, or had you come over to introduce yourself to me and then sat with me before church started.

Tenth, HAD YOU BEEN THERE YOU MIGHT HAVE PERSUADED ME TO COME BACK TO CHURCH

Do you realize that studies of the matter have convinced experts that visitors decide within a couple of minutes of setting foot on the church property whether they will ever come for a second visit? Therefore, how profoundly important it is for you to establish a relationship with me when I first arrive, and then to cultivate that new relationship over the course of the next hour. It takes a long time, and many sermons, for most lost people to be converted to Christ. Therefore, it is so important that you do what you can to encourage me to return. However, how can you do that if you are not here? Or if you show up too late to help me in any way, just as the church service starts? How can you do that if you are bound to sitting in the same place every service, and with the same people every service?

Are your relationships so weak that you have to tend to them when you ought to be at church instead? As well, are those relationships so weak that they need maintenance during the services when you are here? What about me? Am I, who has no one, not important, too? I only need you for a few minutes, but without your friendly persuasion I will not come back to church. Are you okay with that? Do you not care if I come back or not?

Eleventh, HAD YOU BEEN HERE YOU MIGHT HAVE SHOWN ME CHRISTIAN LOVE

Jesus taught people that the second great commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.[1] He also taught, when He taught the parable of the good Samaritan, that your neighbor is that one you have opportunity to love who is in need.[2] I was not wounded by bandits and lying beside the road, and you are not priests, Levites, or Samaritans. However, you are my neighbor, and I needed your love. I did not need you to walk up to me before the service and tell me, “Be ye warmed and filled.”[3]

I needed your time. I needed your attention. I needed your concern. I needed your beneficial influence and personal warmth. I needed your proximity, since you could not love me in the needed way at a distance. I did not ask much of you, only that you be with me, before the service, during the service, and after the service, a Christian. Alas, you were not in church for that service. Or, if you were in church for that service, you were not here functioning as a Christian.

Finally, YOU MIGHT HAVE BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN MY CONVERSION

Though I did not realize it at the time, God never intended for me to react to the preaching of the gospel in isolation. God works to verify and validate the truth by means of the two or three witnesses principle, authenticating the gospel message by the corroborating verification of others.[4] Thus, you might have played a significant role in my conversion if I should hear the gospel preached, if the convincing ministry of the Holy Spirit of God should influence me, and if I should have been persuaded to want to become a Christian by you, my newfound friend at church.

The only problem with this scenario, of course, is that you were not here when I was here, and the message I might have listened to with a little help was never grasped by me, because I did not receive that little help I needed.

If you are a Christian you are a priest of God, and you have soul liberty to live for Christ and serve Him according to the dictates of an informed conscience. My goal this morning has been to inform your conscience. You are your brother’s keeper.[5] You are to love your neighbor. “It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”[6] And, you are not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is.

When you come to the assembly, it is not to sit comfortably with longtime friends in leisure, but to participate in the gospel ministry as a servant of the most high God. When you responsibly take occasion to absent yourself from the assembly, make sure that what you are doing elsewhere is more important than what you could be doing and what you should be doing while here.

Please, do not treat the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth, lightly.[7] Neither should you so minimize your importance that you think your presence or your absence is without significance. Decide this morning to be an impact Christian. Seize on every opportunity when you are in the Lord’s house to live for Him, to love for Him, to speak for Him, to listen for Him, and to love for Him whoever comes into this auditorium. And for heaven’s sake, don’t miss church unless it is worth the impact it will have on your church’s ministry.



[1] Matthew 22.39

[2] Luke 10.30-37

[3] James 2.16

[4] Deuteronomy 17.6; Matthew 18.16; 1 Corinthians 14.27, 29; 2 Corinthians 31.1; 1 Timothy 5.19

[5] Genesis 4.9

[6] 1 Corinthians 4.2

[7] 1 Timothy 3.15



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org