Many religions have teachings that encourage people to attend church or a service of worship; the New Church is no exception in this regard. You could ask many New Church members about the importance of church and most would agree that attending church is a good idea, and I agree. A question that is more difficult to answer is whether you should also push your friends to attend church. Does it matter if your friends attend church? Is it your responsibility to push them to attend?
In Apocalypse Explained 696, it talks about how in the measure someone knows the truths of faith and lives according to them they are worshiping the Lord. I think this suggests that you should want friends who learn more truths of faith. Moreover, attending church is an excellent way for people to acquire more truths of faith, apply them to their life and therefore worship the Lord. Therefore, if your friends attend church are they more your neighbor than if they didn’t?
I don’t think this is a straight forward question to answer, but it is nonetheless useful to consider. In the book of Luke Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan is a story in the Word about a man who takes care of someone in need without thought of recompense. I think this story is an example of how your friends are more your neighbor if they attend church. The best way to examine who your true friends are is to judge them by their actions. You know the Good Samaritan is the neighbor by his actions, he helped the man in need, not just in words. I do not believe the claims of a friend who says they love the teachings of the New Church but never practice them or seek to learn more of them. You do not worship the Lord simply by word of mouth, you must practice the truths of faith you learned; that is worshiping the Lord.
According to True Christian Religion 459, true charity consists in believing in the Lord, and acting fairly and righteously in every deed and employment. If you are compelling your friends to attend church, because from your knowledge you believe it to be the right thing to do, then according to this teaching I think you are being charitable. I think a perfect illustration of this charity is in the story of the watchmen from the book Ezekiel in chapter 33.
‘When the watchman, sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’
As a watchman it is your job to look out for your neighbor and warn them if you know they are doing something wrong, you should warn them and plead them to change. If you know that a friend is choosing to do something you believe to be wrong, it is your responsibility to call them out on it. This should be applied to every aspect of life, which includes church.
If you have a friend who doesn’t attend church, I believe it is your responsibility to remind them of its importance. It is your responsibility to remind your friend that the fourth commandment is to remember the sabbath day. It is your responsibility to show your friend that you believe this commandment is worthwhile for both your spiritual wellbeing and theirs. The best way to show your friend the importance of attending church is by practicing it in your own life. If you believe that going to church every Sunday is important, then prove it by attending every Sunday and if you are unable to than worship at home. However, if you remind your friend of the importance of worship and church and they do not listen, you are not responsible. Your friend must choose to listen to your warning, you can’t make them listen to you, as will be explained further below.
Your friend is the most crucial factor in the question of the paper, just like you, they were born with free will. In Arcana Coelestia 1937, it mentions how individuals need to compel themselves to do good, obey what the Lord has commanded, and to utter truths. The passage goes on to explain that this is submitting oneself beneath the power of Divine good and truth. This passage mentions the need for individuals to compel themselves: this is crucial to answer the big question. Furthermore, going hand in hand with compelling yourself is repentance.
In True Christian Religion 567 it describes how actual repentance is to examine yourself, recognize and acknowledge your sins, hold yourself guilty, and confess your sins before the Lord. Then you must pray for help and the power to resist them, and then refrain from them and begin a new life. The passage also explains that you need to feel as if you are doing this of yourself. It is essential for everyone to believe they are in control of their decisions regarding their spiritual well-being. As a friend you need to be wary of usurping this belief. Even if you are trying to push your friend to act more in accordance with your understanding of the commandments, they must choose it.
It is vital to understand how little control you have over your friend’s spiritual growth. Each person must choose to follow the Lord and act according to his teachings, no one else can choose this for them. It is your responsibility to warn your friends when you see them straying from the commandments. It is your responsibility to lead your friends by example and better yourself daily. It is your responsibility to attend to your own repentance. It is not your responsibility to make your friends attend church. You can’t make anyone, except yourself, worship the Lord.
The Word says in the book of Matthew chapter 7: first you must remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can look carefully to remove the bit of straw out of your brother’s eye. This does not answer how much you should push your friends to go to church, but it is important to consider how much time you spend trying to change your friends.
To conclude, you are more the neighbor in accordance with the amount of good you practice through actions as explained in the story of the Good Samaritan. You should be a watchman for all your neighbors by warning them when you see them straying from the commandments. It is charitable to encourage your friends to attend church. However, you must allow your friends the opportunity to compel themselves into choosing a life leading to heaven. Therefore, and thusly you should push your friends to attend church to the extent you wish them to push you. The most effective way to push your friends to attend church without impeding on their freedom is to lead by example. As stated earlier in the paper, the only spiritual life you have any sliver of control over is your own. You should choose to live a life of repentance and become a wise friend who inspires others to do the same.