For about two months, we have been restricted in our gathering together as a church, and it is starting to take a toll on many. We have attempted to buffer the problem with video services and zoom prayer meetings and Bible studies, but it isn’t the same.
I went on a two-week short term missions trip to the north African country of Mauritania several years ago. Mauritania is a very militant Muslim country that has outlawed Christianity and persecutes Christians severely. The high light of the trip for me was preaching at an underground church. The building that they met in the Sunday I was there was a large but simple home. There was no electricity, just a couple of candles, the floor was sand and most sat cross-legged on the floor with some standing. People arrived approximately 15 minutes apart so as not to arouse any suspicion from neighbors so it took several hours for everybody to get there and the same procedure was followed when they left. I preached for over two hours and then answered questions for another hour, so with coming and going and the service time it was an all-day event. The entire country of Mauritania is in the Sahara Desert so it is very sandy and very hot. The shutters over the windows were kept shut to prevent any inside noise and conversation from getting out, so with about 50 people crammed into this house for 8 hours with no ventilation in a country where 90 to 100 degrees is average; it was boiling.
When I preached there were four interpreters, the first one translated what I said into French, which is the official language of the country, though for many it isn’t their primary language. The second interpreted from French to Arabic which is the general trade language; a third translated into Wolof and a fourth into Serer. When the fourth guy finished I then spoke another sentence or phrase. It was probably the most challenging speaking experience of my life because of the length of time it lasted, and the difficulty I had in concentrating because of the heat, the darkness of the room, and the gap between sentences that I spoke. The pastor of the church told me afterward that everyone knows some of all of the languages and because most don’t read and are a verbal country everyone will remember my sermon almost word for word.
What impressed me most about the experience was that the people were willing to risk going to prison, losing everything they owned, being separated from their families and even being killled to gather together weekly as a church. They took that extreme risk not because that was what they were supposed to do, but they fully understood how essential it was to the health of their soul and their walk with God.
In my Leadership Class one of my main emphasis is that serious followers of Jesus need to be faithful to seven basic disciplines, (1) Bible reading, memorization, study, and meditation; (2) prayer, private and corporate; (3) self-examination and confession of sin; (4) giving; (5) seeking wisdom; (6) worship both private and corporate; and (7) gathering together.
Hebrews 10:24-25 let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
The most common denominator amount those who fall away from the Lord and get lukewarm is they become casual and apathetic about regular times of gatheringvtogethercwith their church family to fellowship, worship, pray, and learn.