Over the past 20 years, practicing Christians have turned away from attending church and church gatherings. According to Barna research, 48% of Americans attended church in 2009. However, today 36% fewer Americans attend church weekly. While only 25% of Americans identify as practicing Christians, church leaders and missionaries can have hope that God is working through them to gather all people nationwide back into his place of prayer and worship.
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
There are many passages in the bible that talks about us being in fellowship and in unity with other believers. That is because God did not intend for us to be alone. While society has become individualistic, practicing Christians must “not give up meeting together.” The guidance and help of others become the fuel to our faith. With the alarming statistics, church leaders and missionaries should find ways to gather people back into the church, so that they community of Christ can remain united and God’s mission can move forward.
These are the following reasons why spiritual gatherings such as trainings and retreats are essential and should not be neglected:
Helps us to grow spiritually- When we gather together with other believers, we are able to grow spiritually. We are able to receive prayer, counsel, and encouragement from one another that propels our faith. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20). The early church was born at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit dwelled upon the place where the 120 people were gathered. Each day they set the standard to meet together, listen to God’s word, and to pray. As they did this constantly, the Holy Spirit filled the room and they all began to speak in tongues.
Receive Blessing from God- The bible refers to church as the “Bride” of Christ. That is how important the church was to Jesus. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27). As followers, we should love the church just as much–if not more than Jesus. When we attend church services and gatherings we are able to receive an outpouring of God’s grace and blessing that will purify us and make us new. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. (Pslam 84:4)
Keeps one another connected to the Christian community- We become an easy target for Satan when we stay by ourselves or are not attending church gatherings. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20). Without a Christian community, we are weak. We need to be surrounded with like-minded people, so that we can receive strength to continue the journey. The New Testament mentions the term “one another” 59 times and that is because we are meant to walk the path with one another and not by ourself.
Reset our focus- Often times we are distracted by daily life that we tend to not give much focus or attention to reading the bible, praying, and meeting with Christian believers. However, retreats allow us to “re-treat” and realign our focus on God in the place where believers are. 35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (Mark 1:35). As believers, we must depart from worldly focuses and worldly relationships and go to the place that is devoted to praying and giving full attention to God just as Jesus did. It is in those moments that our strength is renewed, and we can be a strength to others.
As AM Global Network leaders are beginning preparations towards hosting trainings and retreats, it is imperative that the spiritual gatherings are held even if it is one person in attendance. Not only does it become a spiritual strength for the student, but it becomes a spiritual blessing for the leader. “The best sacrifice to God is the offering of lambs,” said AM HQ Staff.
Surely, God can unite the hearts of the community of Christ believers worldwide as we work together to build the body of Christ and raise people through the word of God.