Why You Need to Attend Christian Meetings
FOR months, Rosario, who lives in South America, enjoyed studying the Bible with Elizabeth. It thrilled Rosario to learn about God’s Kingdom and how it will bring about Paradise conditions on earth. Yet, whenever Elizabeth invited her to attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall, she declined. She felt that she could study the Bible at home and put into practice what it says, doing so without attending congregation meetings. Have you also wondered whether Christian meetings really benefit you? Why does God arrange for his people to meet together?
Since Christians in the first century were so different from the people around them, right association was vital to their survival. The apostle Paul wrote to one congregation of early Christians: ‘You came to be blameless and innocent among a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you are shining as illuminators in the world.’ (Philippians 2:15) Christians had a particularly difficult time in Judea, and it was to them that Paul wrote: “Let us 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.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) How do we incite one another to love and fine works by meeting together?
How Christians “Sharpen” One Another
The Greek word Paul used and that is translated “incite” literally means “a sharpening.” A Bible proverb explains how Christians “sharpen” one another when it says: “By iron, iron itself is sharpened. So one man sharpens the face of another.” (Proverbs 27:17; Ecclesiastes 10:10) We are like instruments that need regular sharpening. Since expressing love for Jehovah and making decisions based on our faith means being different from the world, we constantly have to cut a different path, as it were, from the majority.
The constant effort to be different can blunt our zeal for fine works. But when we are with others who love Jehovah, we sharpen one another—we incite one another to love and fine works. On the other hand, when we are alone, we tend to consider ourselves more. Immoral, selfish, or foolish ideas may enter our minds. “One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.” (Proverbs 18:1) That is why Paul wrote to the congregation in the city of Thessalonica: “Keep comforting one another and building one another up, just as you are in fact doing.”—1 Thessalonians 5:11.
When Rosario finished her study of basic Bible teachings, she still held back from associating with the congregation. So, unable to provide more help, Elizabeth stopped visiting her. Some months later a traveling overseer called on Rosario and asked: “Even if each member of a family could find good food by eating out, what would all members miss by not eating together at home?” Rosario replied: “They would miss the companionship of the family.” She got the point and started coming regularly to the meetings. She found it so beneficial that she has been at almost every meeting since.
Hearing other people express faith in the same things that you believe in is encouraging and so is seeing how such faith has changed their lives. Paul knew this from personal experience, and he wrote to the congregation in Rome: “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.” (Romans 1:11, 12) In fact, it was years before Paul could visit Rome, and when he did, it was as a prisoner in the hands of the Romans. But when he saw brothers from Rome who had walked over 40 miles [60 km] from the city to meet him, “Paul thanked God and took courage.”—Acts 28:15.
Finding Spiritual Food in Critical Times
While under house arrest in Rome, Paul wrote the Hebrews about not forsaking the gathering of themselves together. It is significant for us that he added the words: “And all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25) Jehovah’s Witnesses have consistently shown from the Scriptures that the year 1914 marked the beginning of this world’s time of the end and that “the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men” has drawn near. (2 Peter 3:7) According to the Bible book of Revelation, when the Devil was cast out of heaven at the beginning of the time of the end, he had great anger and “went off to wage war with the remaining ones . . . who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” (Revelation 12:7-17) Therefore, observing the commandments of God is especially difficult now; we need to meet with fellow believers all the more so. Meetings will help us to strengthen our faith and our love for God in order to resist the Devil’s attacks.
Love of God and faith are not like buildings that are permanent once they are built. Rather, they are like living things that grow slowly with constant feeding but that wither and die if starved. That is why Jehovah provides regular spiritual food to strengthen his people. All of us need such food, but where can we receive it apart from God’s organization and its meetings? Nowhere.—Deuteronomy 32:2; Matthew 4:4; 5:3.
Jesus posed a question that can help us to see how he feeds the Christian congregation. He asked: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so.” (Matthew 24:45, 46) Whom did Jesus appoint in the first century to feed his followers, and whom did he find faithfully feeding them on his return in Kingdom power? Obviously, no human has lived through all those centuries. The evidence points to the slave as being the congregation of spirit-anointed Christians, just as the nation of Israel was God’s servant in pre-Christian times. (Isaiah 43:10) Yes, Jesus provides our spiritual food through that worldwide body of spirit-anointed Christians, which today channels spiritual food through the local congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Jesus’ provision of a supply line for spiritual food was further described by the apostle Paul: “‘When he ascended on high he carried away captives; he gave gifts in men.’ . . . He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ, until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.”—Ephesians 4:8, 11-13.
It was principally within the local congregations—at the meetings—that these “gifts in men” built up the brothers. In Antioch, for example, “Judas and Silas, since they themselves were also prophets, encouraged the brothers with many a discourse and strengthened them.” (Acts 15:32) Talks by spiritually qualified men today will similarly nourish our faith so that it will not wither or become inactive.
It may be true that we have made good progress because of the personal help of a member of the congregation even though we may not yet have begun attending meetings. The Bible says that there is a time when you “need someone to teach you from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God; and you . . . need milk, not solid food.” (Hebrews 5:12) But one cannot remain at the milk stage forever. Christian meetings provide a continuous program of Bible instruction designed to keep love of God and faith in him alive as well as to provide practical help in applying “all the counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27) This is more than “milk.” The Bible further says: “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) At the meetings many subjects are considered that may not be part of a basic course of home Bible instruction, such as verse-by-verse studies of important Bible prophecies and in-depth discussions of how we can imitate God in our own lives.
Jehovah’s Reminders —Like a Voice Behind You
By means of such congregation studies, Jehovah regularly reminds us of what sort of persons we should be. Such reminders are vital. Without them we easily tend toward selfishness, pride, and greed. Reminders from the Scriptures will help us to enjoy successful relationships with other humans and with God himself. “I have considered my ways, that I may turn back my feet to your reminders,” confessed the writer of Psalm 119:59.
As we regularly attend Christian meetings, we experience the outworking of Jehovah’s prophecy through Isaiah, which says: “Your Grand Instructor will no longer hide himself, and your eyes must become eyes seeing your Grand Instructor. And your own ears will hear a word behind you saying: ‘This is the way. Walk in it, you people.’” Jehovah watches over our progress and lovingly corrects us if we take a false step. (Isaiah 30:20, 21; Galatians 6:1) And he provides even more help than this.
Receiving Holy Spirit Through the Congregation
By regularly attending Christian meetings with Jehovah’s Witnesses, we are strengthened by God’s holy spirit, which is resting upon his people. (1 Peter 4:14) Further, the Christian overseers in the congregation have been appointed by holy spirit. (Acts 20:28) This active force from God has a powerful influence on a Christian. The Bible says: “The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) Holy spirit, working through God’s organization, will also help us to gain a wonderfully clear understanding of what Jehovah has in store for those who love him. After explaining that prominent people of this system of things cannot understand God’s purposes, Paul wrote: “It is to us God has revealed them through his spirit.”—1 Corinthians 2:8-10.
Besides faith-strengthening spiritual food, the congregation provides training for those who wish to share in the congregation’s principal activity. What is that?
Training Provided by the Congregation
The Christian congregation is not a social club where people merely enjoy entertainment and perhaps encourage one another to live better lives. Jesus commissioned the congregation to take the good news of the Kingdom to those living in spiritual darkness. (Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 2:9) From the day it was founded, at Pentecost 33 C.E., it was an organization of preachers. (Acts 2:4) Have you had the experience of trying to tell someone about Jehovah’s purposes but failing to convince him? Congregation meetings provide personal training in the art of teaching. By studying Bible examples, we learn how to establish common ground from which to reason, how to use the Scriptures as a basis for logical argument, and how to help others to reason by using questions and illustrations. Such skills can help you experience the unspeakable joy of assisting another person to understand Bible truth.
In this strife-torn, immoral world, the Christian congregation is a real spiritual refuge. Even though it is made up of imperfect people, it is a haven of peace and love. Therefore, be a regular attender at all of its meetings and experience for yourself the truth of the psalmist’s words: “Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! . . . Jehovah commanded the blessing to be, even life to time indefinite.”—Psalm 133:1, 3.