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When You Hate Church

Devotions

Carol was dismayed when her church added another service with a worship style that she did not appreciate. She feels that some styles are more of a hindrance than a help to her worship. She is not exaggerating when she says, “I can’t worship to that music.”

There can be many instances when we have a problem with our church and want to leave. In Carol’s case, it was the worship style. In today’s passage the issue was more complicated: fear of persecution. These Jewish believers were under fire for their belief in the gospel and had begun to waver in their faith (Heb. 10:32–36). Fear of persecution made it tempting to withdraw from the assembly of believers. The fact that the author of Hebrews expected this letter to reach his readers could suggest that they continued to meet, but perhaps they were not part of a larger congregation where Gentiles were present. Other scholars think that the Hebrews were believers in Christ who were part of a synagogue that had begun meeting together as Christians but now were considering disbanding because of opposition to the gospel.

Whatever the reason for their discomfort, the remedy was not to give up meeting together but to devote themselves to the task of mutual encouragement. The language used to describe the purpose for their assembling is interesting. The Greek word that is translated “spur one another on” (v. 24) means to “stir up.” It is used in a negative sense in Acts 15:39 to speak of the disagreement that arose between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark. Here the word is used in a positive sense to speak of rousing one another to love and good works. This kind of positive agitation does not happen without careful thought.

Apply the Word

No matter how imperfect the church we attend may be, we still need the church. What is more, the church needs us. Today’s reading teaches us not to give up on the church, but to use our gifts to make it better. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom as you “study” your church to discern how God can use you to encourage others to follow Jesus.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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