You Are Invited to Come Again
EACH year Jehovah’s witnesses and their friends gather in congregation groups around the earth to celebrate the “Lord’s supper” on Nisan 14, according to the ancient Jewish calendar. This year that memorial supper was held on the night of March 25. Perhaps you were present.
Yearly, large numbers of readers of The Watchtower do attend the Memorial. In 1966, 1,971,107 persons met together around the world on that sacred occasion. The report for this year has not yet been completed, but we have every reason to believe that again the attendance was large. Yet something concerns us: This past year we observed that about a million who attended the Memorial never came to any of the other meetings of the congregation. These other meetings are just as important in the life of a Christian. The Bible is just as pointed in counseling us to attend these meetings as it is in instructing that the “Lord’s supper” be held. (Heb. 10:23-25) Why, then, do so many attend one meeting but not the others?
A surprising number of people apparently believe that a single attendance is all that is required of them as Christians and to gain salvation. Thus these miss one of the key points highlighted at the Lord’s evening meal, namely, the need for Christians to meet together regularly.
That need was emphasized by what happened immediately after the first celebration of the Lord’s evening meal in the year 33 of our Common Era. Think what the apostles would have missed had they left the upper room and Jerusalem that night with the thought of not assembling together again until the following year. They would have missed the resurrection of Jesus Christ, meeting with him in Galilee, seeing him ascend to heaven, the outpouring of the holy spirit at Pentecost, the miracle of the tongues. But those who were regularly meeting together for worship did not miss out.
After Jesus’ resurrection, for fear of the Jews the disciples of Christ met together behind locked doors. This they did despite the danger to themselves, because they appreciated the vital need and importance of meeting together. On one such occasion the resurrected Jesus paid them an unexpected visit, showing thereby that he approved of what they were doing. Jesus entered through a locked door, much to the disciples’ amazement. The apostle Thomas missed this meeting. Since he was not present, the brothers began to tell him what he had missed, namely, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas responded with disbelief: ‘I don’t believe it!’ “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hand into his side, I will certainly not believe.” Obviously, Thomas’ faith was weak.
Eight days later Jesus’ disciples were again at a meeting. This time Thomas was with them. The Bible account says: “Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and he stood in their midst and said: ‘May you have peace.’ Next he said to Thomas: ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands, and take your hand and stick it into my side, and stop being unbelieving but become believing.’” (John 20:24-27) Thomas’ faith was restored. That is what meetings are for, to restore faith, to keep us believing. We can still count on Christ’s restorative powers to help us out of our unbelief, for he gave us this promise: “Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.” (Matt. 18:20) He is in our midst if we meet together in his name.
PURPOSE OF MEETINGS
Regularly attending and participating in meetings is an outward act of faith. It is an essential part of declaring publicly our faith that Christ is Lord. The apostle Paul says this must be done: “If you publicly declare that ‘word in your own mouth,’ that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” (Rom. 10:9, 10) Thomas indeed gave public declaration when he beheld the risen Christ. He cried out: “My Lord and my God!” But Jesus said to Thomas: “Because you have seen me have you believed? Happy are those who do not see and yet believe.” (John 20:28, 29) Yes, happy are those who today, in faith, make public declaration of this fact that Jesus is Christ the Lord.
Meetings are like water holes where thirsty souls gather to drink. Christians assemble regularly to replenish themselves spiritually and to receive instruction. At meetings Jesus taught his disciples many things. At one meeting after his resurrection he gave them the order: “Do not withdraw from Jerusalem, but keep waiting for what the Father has promised . . . you will be baptized in holy spirit not many days after this.” (Acts 1:4, 5) At a meeting Jesus instructed them as to their service work: “You will be witnesses of me . . . to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Failure to attend those meetings would have meant missing out on precious privileges.
After Jesus ascended to heaven his disciples continued to assemble together regularly. They met in an upper chamber where they persisted in prayer. At a meeting Matthias was selected to fill the spot vacated by Judas Iscariot. The holy spirit was also poured out on a congregation of 120 while they were together at a meeting.—Acts 1:12-14, 24-26; 2:1-4, 46, 47; 4:31.
So the idea of going home Memorial night and not showing up among Christian brothers until the next Memorial is certainly not in keeping with what Christ and the apostles did, is it?
Beware of the dangerous concept that says all that is required to gain God’s approval and life is an appearance at the Lord’s evening meal once a year. This, of course, is not true. One meeting cannot supply us all our spiritual needs any more than one meal can supply all our physical needs. Jesus made this plain, saying: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.” (Matt. 4:4) Everlasting life requires the regular taking in of the knowledge of God and Christ. (John 17:3) Meetings keep us in touch with that constant flow.
Some people say, ‘We have our Bible and in the privacy of our own homes we can study it without having to go to meetings.’ This sounds fine, but is it the whole truth? How often weeks pass by without persons even once opening the Bible or seriously meditating on its message! It is a rare person indeed who today sets aside time to study the Bible privately and does so regularly.
While private home Bible study is most commendable and should not be discouraged or neglected, it is misleading to think that it will supply all our spiritual needs, even if we do adhere to a strict schedule. There are needs that can be supplied only in the association with others. For example, the text at John 5:37 perplexed a Bible student for years. At a meeting one day it was read and commented on. An understanding of it flashed through the mind. Jesus was not addressing his words to all men, but only to those near him. ‘They had not heard God’s voice or seen his figure.’ This flash of light came at a meeting, which calls to mind the proverb: “By iron, iron itself is sharpened. So one man sharpens the face of another.” (Prov. 27:17) This underscores the importance of meetings.
MEETINGS AN OBLIGATION
The apostle Paul gave us still another reason why we should want to meet regularly with our Christian brothers, saying: “Do not you people be owing anybody a single thing, except to love one another.” (Rom. 13:8) We owe love to our brothers, which debt we must pay. At meetings we can best do this. Stressing this point, Paul says: “Consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”—Heb. 10:24, 25.
Our love should compel us to meet with our Christian brothers regularly, if at all possible. What love would that be if a husband and a wife voluntarily stayed away from each other weeks, months and years at a time? Christ’s love is manifest in these words: “I am with you all the days.” (Matt. 28:20) Our love must reflect the same desire, that is, to be where the brothers are met together.
Memorial reminds us not to be selfish, not to think solely of ourselves, but to minister to the needs of one another. (Matt. 20:28) If Christ were hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, depressed or in prison, would you not care for him? Of course you would! This a person can do by ministering to the needs of even the least of these his brothers, which Christ counts as done to himself. Being at meetings, if at all possible, places one in a position to care for the needs of others, thus proving whether one is a “sheep” or a “goat.”—Matt. 25:34-46.
Whatever our position in life, there is need to continue to cultivate the same longing for the brothers that Paul had, the same concern for them, when he said: “I am longing to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to you in order for you to be made firm; or, rather, that there may be an interchange of encouragement among you, by each one through the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Rom. 1:11, 12) This fine attitude will prevent you from withdrawing to yourself, from becoming cool or indifferent toward those who need your love. This Christian attitude will transform you into what all men should be and what all who gain divine approval will eventually be, namely, active witnesses to the glory of God in one grand assembly.
So, do not wait another year to attend a meeting. Do not wait another week. You are invited to come to the Kingdom Hall again this week.