My kids were essentially sick for the entire month of January. I cleaned up more vomit in that month than I have in a lifetime, and it’s a miracle our son didn’t end up in the hospital due to dehydration. Throughout the week Sarah and I shuffled our schedules to take turns being with the kids while the other went to work, but eventually the Sunday morning alarm went off.

As a pastor, Sunday is always an “on” day for me, so Sarah was the one who had to stay home with whichever kid was feverish, throwing up, and by default a national security risk. It ended up being five Sundays that my wife was unable to attend a morning worship gathering. She continued to do personal devotions, attended our small group several times, and she listened to a few sermons online. However, she confessed how much she missed gathering with the rest of our congregation for worship.

During this time, I was reminded how the corporate gathering of the church fuels discipleship. Many have emphasized how important it is to walk with Jesus not just on Sunday, but consistently throughout the week. I totally believe that. However, this doesn’t undermine the priority of the corporate gathering of the church; it enhances it.

I ache for those who view Sunday gatherings as optional. Attending church may be determined by how one feels after a late Saturday night, a busy work week, or any number of things that come up on a Sunday morning. The reason I struggle with this perspective is because it’s so foreign to the Bible and God’s design for growing in Christ.

We often think far too individualistically about our walk with Christ. God purposed that we would grow corporately with other believers. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” This verse is found in the context of how God’s people should relate to one another in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf.

A biblical worship gathering includes fellowship with other believers, prayer, preaching of the Word, singing, and the public reading of Scripture. (Communion services may be separate, but these elements are also central in the life of the church.) These things aren’t done for entertainment value or to fill up time, but rather because God uses them to transform us and to grow our love for Jesus. Certainly, discipleship shouldn’t end with just an hour or two once a week, but even if you watched dozens of sermons, read your Bible daily, and listened to worship music 24/7 you’d be missing the one gathering that includes all of those elements.

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. Hebrews 10:24,25

There are a dozen variables that could be included in this discussion (such as church size, cultural context, structure), but my encouragement to you is to make your local church’s gathering the default priority of your schedule. It doesn’t mean you can’t go away on vacation or stay home sick. While our faith is personal, it’s not individual, and through the preaching of the Word, singing God’s praises, prayer, and encouraging one another we are being made into the likeness of Jesus…together.

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Zac Hess joined the pastoral staff in 2013 after serving as an intern during his seminary studies. He grew up on a farm in Ashland, OH and later met his wife, Sarah, who grew up as part of Grace Polaris Church. Zac pursued biblical studies at both Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary. He loves sports, the outdoors, reading, and a good cup of coffee. Zac and Sarah are the proud parents of Jacob and Caroline.