What’s the Big Deal? Church Membership . . . Again
As you probably know or could guess, I do a lot of reading and thinking about church life, including church attendance. And, yes, I am about to write another article about church attendance. For those of you who are with us every time the doors are open, take this letter as guidance for your own conversations with people. For those of you who do not attend church on a regular, routine basis, take this message into meaningful consideration. Seriously.
Every few months, I think it is necessary to teach on the subject of church involvement. Maybe this is so because every few months it begins to bother me again how many of our “members” are so lax in their participation in the local congregation. There are clear biblical commands and instructions about our service to the local church. There are many theologically practical reasons to be involved in the life of the local church. And yet, so many evade church gatherings on Sundays. How did we get to this point?
There are several explanations of why folks do not attend church as often as they did just a few decades ago. For example, more people have more money, opportunities, and better transportation than ever before. Our country has also grown more and more into an entitled society. Many think that they deserve a mini vacation every few weeks. Moreover, there is the focus on youth activities that has grown and grown. Americans think that their kids need to be involved in multiple sports, activities, and lessons all throughout the year. And, surprise, Satan grabbed what was healthy and fun and has used it against us. Now our youngest are more and more depressed, they are acting out in ways they never have before, and many of those great activities are on Sundays, the Lord’s Day (do you think that’s by accident)! Another major reason/problem with the lack of full commitment and attendance to the local Christian body is the issue of blended families and single parents. Certainly, there are innocent parties in many of these situations, but are we working against these trends? It doesn’t seem like the church is doing much to help curb the unhealthy trend of sin in the home, problems in marriages, and the high divorce rate in America. Now, these are all “explanations” for the fact that overall church involvement has decreased over the years, but are they “good” reasons? We can do better. We must minister to one another and begin to realign our priorities; and gathering for worship, fellowship, and mutual edification on Sundays will go a long way to helping with these things.
Now, some of you may think that this is just a pastor who is upset about the size of the church. Honestly, being a small church is not the problem. Most churches in America, and around the world as a matter of fact, are “small” churches, 50 people or less. Being a small church is not the dilemma. The issue is the lack of devotion by those who claim the name of Christ (“Christians”) and who, at some point, pledged allegiance to the local church by joining (“members”). To be a Christian is to know Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord. To be present when the church gathers is one of the most basic necessities for the Christian life (the Lord commands it), and it is the most basic requirement as a member of a local church. Every believer has obligations to brothers and sisters in the local church. The only way to begin to fulfill all of those obligations is to gather with them at appointed times.
Not only are members skirting their duty to the Lord and His church by not gathering with fellow believers on Sundays (whether it’s because of work, vacationing, youth activities, or flat out laziness), but folks are hurting themselves and their families. The Lord designed the church and her structure for a reason. The God of heaven and earth, the one, true and living God, formed the church, organized the church, loves the church, died for the church, and wants what’s best for the church—His church. We rebel against God when we go our own way. And what does it say about the Lord to our children when we do everything but devote ourselves to Him every day, and especially on the Day when we are supposed to worship Him? Are we telling our kids that soccer is superior to worship; shopping is more enjoyable than Christian fellowship; swim lessons are more important than Bible lessons? Really—what does it teach our children when we only gather with the church when we have nothing better to do?
And what about you, personally? Do you think that skipping out on church has no impact on your own spiritual life? Think again. When you dodge the Christian assembly, you miss out on mutual edification, encouragement from other Christians, singing praise to the Lord with others, praying with the church, remembering the Lord’s Supper, solid Christian teaching, and the list goes on and on. Without these things, you are weak and vulnerable to the world and the enemy. You know, deep down inside, that missing church on Sundays hurts you spiritually and in many other ways. So, create some new habits, break some bad ones, make some adjustments, and get back into church on Sundays. Come worship with all of who you are. Come love your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Come sing your heart out. Come pray with all your might. Come remember and proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again. Come learn and grow. Renew your faithfulness to the local church, and watch the Lord do amazing things in your life.
*Disclaimer: Yes, occasional vacations are fair; the issue is excessiveness. Yes, working on Sundays is unavoidable at times; but why not pursue a new or better schedule or job? Yes, some folks are shut-in and unable to attend. Yes, divorce happens, but we must deal with it to the best of our abilities. And, finally, yes, there are some other exceptions to the general rule, but they are “exceptions.”