The word church in the Bible literally means assembly, and refers to a physical gathering of people. This is a common idea in the New Testament, but the martyr Stephen even applied it to the Israelites in the Old Testament, calling them "the church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38). They gathered together at the command of God for the purpose of hearing His Word—"Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words" (Deuteronomy 4:10). The preaching of the word of God is meant to be a live event within the context of the local church.
It matters that you show up and listen in person. This is because when we hear the Word of God together, we are accountable to each other. You know what you heard; those around you know what you heard; you know what they heard; they know you know what they heard. That means you can help and encourage others as they look to apply the message. You can do this through prayer for yourself and your church, asking God to empower you all to be "doers of the word" (James 1:22). You can also do this by being intentional in your conversations after the service. Ask those around you: What did you learn? What were you reminded of? What challenged you the most? What would this look like if everyone in our church acted on it?
We forgo such encouragement and rob others of it when we fail to attend the preaching event in person. So this Sunday:
- Begin keeping track of how many Sundays you are in your own local church, listening to the sermon in person. Make note of the reasons for any absences. Do this over the next six months.
- If you find you're absent more than you realized, take practical action based on your notes—come back from vacation or an out of town trip Saturday night, ask if its possible to get more Sundays off from your work, etc.
- Ask God to work in your life and in the church through the sermon.
- Be mindful of others your worshipping with. Talk to them afterwards about the message—how it impacted them and how they think it would look if the while church lived it out.