What is “Forsaking the Assembly”?

By Chuck Bartlett

Many of us are familiar with Hebrews 10:25: “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 exactly does this mean?

Some contend that a Christian can skip a Sunday here and there and not be accused of “forsaking the assembly” because they have not abandoned church services altogether. The word “forsaking” means to leave behind, leave to desert. Does this mean that a person is forsaking the assembly if they leave and do not return? Yes, but not always.

Consider when Jesus was hanging on the cross. There is no question that he felt all alone. He uttered the words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34). This is the exact same word that the Hebrew writer used. This article is not a discussion of whether God forsook Jesus or if Jesus just felt that way. My point is this – was Jesus correct to use the word “forsaken” in that situation? Did Jesus not have to wait weeks or months to then use the term? No. One can forsake when a person is not where they ought to be.

If a child of God decides they are going to skip services on a Sunday – even if just for one week – the scriptures teach that they have forsaken the assembly. Simply put, they were supposed to be there (I Cor. 11:17-18; Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1-2). It is not logical to say that it is okay to miss one Sunday or to miss on occasion when God’s word is clear about our regular attendance.

This thinking also indicates a double-standard. If a Christian misses one Sunday and says they will be back the next Sunday, they are clearly expecting that the church will be gathered then. This person expects the brethren to be gathered, but the brethren cannot expect the same in return. That is not right, and we all know it.

Problems with “hit and miss” attendance are ultimately problems of the heart. The Lord demands to be worshipped (John 4:24). If our response is to do it when convenient or only when we feel like it, we should not expect the Lord to be pleased. We also need to be mindful of the example this sets for children and other members. Jesus said that we need to be lights in a world of darkness (Matt. 5:13-15). We cannot honestly say that we are seeking first the kingdom of God when we would rather be somewhere else (Matt. 6:33).

To further understand that a person can forsake the assembly by only missing one Sunday, think about a marriage. If a husband goes off with another woman for just one night, can you really say he forsook their wife? Yes!!! Even if the husband planned to go back to their mate the next day, he forsook the vow that he made. Saints are described as being married to the Lord (II Cor. 11:2). Therefore, when we choose not to gather with the saints to honor our Lord, we are not being faithful.

Let’s look at yet one more example. Mark 14:50 describes how Jesus was arrested and all his followers deserted (forsook) Him. Notice how the followers were described as forsaking Jesus even though very little time has passed. Yet again, a Christian can be guilty of forsaking the assembly by taking a single day off from worship.

This begs the question – what does it mean when someone skips a day of worship? They need to repent of their sin (Luke 13:3). Local churches often struggle to know if members are guilty of this as people can be creative in coming up with “reasons” why they could not attend. You might fool fellow Christians, but you cannot fool the Lord. We will ultimately answer to the Him, not man (II Cor. 5:1).

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