Dear members and friends of Valley Park,
I want to share encouragement this month from the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. He was a President who was devoted to not just attending a church, but actively participating in the life of a local church. Some people go to church regularly, some go occasionally, and others seldom go at all. How important is church participation? Are there good reasons that I should go to church?
Actually, the Bible calls on believers to be the church, and not just go to church. But to effectively be the church, believers need to faithfully gather with the other members of the body of Christ for equipping and encouragement.
Theodore Roosevelt believed in attending and participating in church. In 1917, in an interview with Ladies Home Journal, President Roosevelt offered reasons for going to church:
- In the actual world a churchless community, a community where men have abandoned and scoffed at or ignored their religious needs, is a community on the rapid downgrade.
- Church work and church attendance mean the cultivation of the habit of feeling some responsibility for others and the sense of braced moral strength, which prevents a relaxation of one’s own moral fiber.
President Roosevelt shared “Yes, I know all the excuses. I know that one can worship the Creator and dedicate oneself to good living in a grove of trees, or by a running brook, or in one’s own house, just as well as in church. But I also know as a matter of cold fact the average man does not thus worship or thus dedicate himself. If he strays away from church, he does not spend his time in good works or lofty meditation. He looks over the colored supplement of the newspaper.”
- He may not hear a good sermon at church. But unless he is very unfortunate, he will hear a sermon by a good man who, with his good wife, is engaged all the week-long in a series of wearing, humdrum and important tasks for making hard lives a little easier.
- He will listen to and take part in reading some beautiful passages from the Bible. And if he is not familiar with the Bible, he has suffered a loss.
- He will probably take part in singing some good hymns.
- He will meet and nod to, or speak to, good quiet neighbors. He will come away feeling a little more charitably toward all the world, even toward those excessively foolish young men who regard churchgoing as rather a soft performance.
- I advocate a man’s joining in church works for the sake of showing his faith by his works.
- The man who does not in some way, active or not, connect himself with some active, working church misses many opportunities for helping his neighbors, and therefore, incidentally, for helping himself.
Ninety-two years have passed since that historic interview with President Roosevelt. His biblically informed convictions back then are equally as valid today for both men and women. They are equally valid to the first century church as well. Hebrews 10:24-25, written almost 2,000 years ago, stressed the importance of loving he church enough to encourage every member of the church.
“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.”Hebrews 10:24-25
It is one of the fundamental commitments of those who really know and understand the heart of Jesus Christ that the “New Commandment” be obeyed. That is, that we love one another as much as Jesus loved us. Love has many expressions including gathering to encourage, serve, bear one another’s burdens, exhort, reprove, teach, shepherd, pray, etc. Loving, as expressed in Hebrews 10:24 can even involve creativity in that we “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” Each one of these exhortations require being together. Sundays are a regular time for meeting and a regular opportunity to love. Sundays are a time to obey the “New Commandment.”
As the summer months come to an end, we need to be aware of brethren who need our encouragement and our need to be involved in their lives. I want to encourage every member and friend of VP to consider the things Franklin Roosevelt shared 92 years ago and why His convictions are equally relevant to us today. To God be the glory in His church in the year to come. May He be honored by our commitment to loving it until He returns or brings us home to Him.