Good Afternoon Church Family, 

      This letter is the first email in a THREE-PART series addressing some items that I feel are important to discuss within EVERY church (not just ours). When you read through this letter, I hope you will consider that these words are being written in a spirit of love and care for your soul, and for that reason alone.

As one of your pastors, God’s Word is clear that I’ll stand before Him one day and “give an account” for the shepherding of your soul (Hebrews 13:17), and that frightens me. It means that I must be intentional in my actions, in my words, and in my example – in order to shepherd you well. It means that I must commit to caring more about your growth as a believer; your devotion as a follower of Christ, and your Walk with Him than I do anything else. And as your pastor, God’s Word also tells me that I must reprove, rebuke and exhort those under my watchcare with complete patience and teaching (2nd Timmothy 4:2).  So I’m writing these letters in an effort to be submissive to God’s call in scripture. I’m writing to reprove those who need it with patience, and to ENCOURAGE our church through the teaching of scripture.  

      The first way I wish to encourage you is to persuade you through scripture to “Not Forsake the Gathering” (Hebrews 10:25). To be blunt or forthcoming, I look around the church each week and see a different congregation than the week before. I’m sure this happens at many other churches, but there seems to be a lot of “transient” folks within our church who come and go in small seasons. This shows me that, as your Worship Pastor, I haven’t been shepherding well. I haven’t done the best job of teaching the importance of “Gathering” for the collective worship of our Sovereign God, nor of scripture’s call to be devoted to the Bride of Christ (the church). 

     And don’t get me wrong – I understand that sickness affects one’s ability to gather, and that the flu and many other illnesses have been rampant in recent weeks. I also understand that some folks are sometimes required to work Sundays in order to provide for their family. I’m not speaking of either of these particular circumstances…however, each and every week I find that many families in and around our community (not just in GCC) are missing from the collective worship of God for “other” reasons…reasons that God clearly speaks against in scripture.  Many are trading the worship of God and the fellowship (and building up) of believers for other earthly pursuits or desires, like sports, idleness, earthly family, community events, traditions, comfortability…and I want to encourage anyone who reads this today to prioritize your time in a way that honors the Lord.  Put HIM and the worship of Him above everything else, and WAR against the distractions around you.

     Our hope at GCC (and the hope of many pastors throughout the nation) is that our members grow in faith and in a deep love for Christ Jesus, so much so that “missing church” or not being able to gather with His Bride becomes a heartbreaking experience. I pray specifically that our people are genuinely burdened when they are not able to come to church…that they TREASURE the gathering and building up of the saints. But I’m not naïve enough to think this sort of devotion and dedication happens overnight. For some people it might, but it takes time for others.

I know through my own experience that as we “grow” in knowledge of our loving God, our love for Him and our devotion to Christ (and His Bride) grows as well. But we must commit ourselves to sitting under good, biblical teaching and preaching in order to grow…so it’s somewhat of a catch-22:  [You can’t grow a love for Christ’s Bride without being devoted to the gathering, and you won’t be devoted to the gathering without a love for Christ’s Bride].

So…what are some of the reasons/excuses people give when they don’t come to church, and why are they wrong?  

     I did a little research this past week and found several lists of the most reported reasons/excuses people tend to often miss church…then I narrowed the lists down to the top FOUR items that showed up on each list. I wanted to show you through scripture what God thinks about these particular reasons/excuses, and hopefully persuade you to cling to the truths within scripture and dedicate yourself to gathering with other believers each week. Here they are:

1.) Family Time/Family Reunions/Visiting Relatives 

2.) Social Events/Concerts/Sporting Events/etc

3.) Holidays

3.) Rest/Relaxation/Vacation

Again… I hope and pray that this letter is seen as an overflow of love for you, for my church.  It’s my greatest desire to see us “grow up” in knowledge of our Lord as He has commanded us to, and to take what we know out into our communities – to see more people confronted with the Gospel, professing the name of Jesus and trusting in Him alone for their salvation. May the Kingdom grow through our diligence and commitment, and may we continue to seek His will for our lives in everything we do. 

With love, 

Joshua Vandgrift
Worship Pastor
Gospel Community Church
Owensboro, KY