Those who study church growth, and church attendance, have noticed that many people only go to church three times in their lives: when they are baptized, when they are married, and when they die. To put that in a more simple way, “many people go to church only when they are hatched, matched, and dispatched.” (Pastor Dennis Phillips, First Baptist Church, Viera, Fl.)
It was said by one of his critics that former United States President, Theodore Roosevelt, went to church because he wanted to be “the baby at every baptism, the bride at every wedding, and the corpse at every funeral.” In other words, he wanted to be the center of attention.
Then, there are people who go to church every time the doors are opened. They are there for Sunday School, the Sunday morning worship hour, the evening service, visitation during the week, the Wednesday night prayer meeting, work days, VBS, and any special services throughout the year. While this faithfulness pleases the pastor, such commitment does put a strain on a person’s lifestyle, and sometimes their personal relationships. More than one marriage has been strained by one spouse wanting to go to church all the time, and the other one, not so much. Some people resist and confess, “I am not that spiritual.” Then, they go to church once a week, or just occasionally.
A third category of people are the unchurched. Some people in this category may be professing Christians, but in practice they unite with the non-Christian and remain unchurched. Many reasons are given for not going to church at all such as poor health, no clothes, too weary, too busy, a difficult work schedule, too tired, or, just out of the habit.
When seeking for guidance on this matter, several Biblical principles are helpful.
First, there is a clear mandate not to forsake the local assembly. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb. 10:25) Attending church at least once a week is a divine imperative. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Professing Christians who do not go to church on a regular basis are sinning against God, and against the body of Christ, because they are defiantly disobeying the known will of the Lord. Even if they send their money in to some organization, they are still missing the mark. Watching a religious television program is no substitute for gospel obedience. If a person is providentially hindered because of old age, sickness, or some other issue, that is understandable. Those cases are also the exception, not the rule.
Second, be led of the Spirit. Some people grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour to the point they want more of Him. One way the church has found a way to satisfy the desire of the saints for more fellowship, more prayer, more songs, more Bible, and more worship, is to hold multiple services, special seminars, or home Bible studies. When these ministries are organic, and arise from the hearts of the people for more spiritual ministries, then the Lord is glorified, souls are blessed, and individuals are helped.
Third, do not be bullied. Pastors, and other church leaders, often use guilt as a way to manipulate people into attending more stated services. It is a false guilt and should not be succumbed to. The Lord wants our heart. If a person does not freely worship God in spirit and in truth then it is a ritual without any spiritual reality. It is a sham, and a shame. “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:” (Isaiah 29:13)
Finally, let your religion bless you, not bug you, lest you lead others astray from the Lord. “Do you rush, push, shout, and become generally unpleasant on Sunday mornings? Do you complain about church? Are you irregular in your attendance? Are you over-conscientious about matters that are not really important? Do you always criticize the pastor, the choir, the length of services, and the usher crew? Then don’t be surprised if your children grow up to look at Sundays as the worst day of the week.” (Karen Burton Mains)
The solution for a critical, and hostile spirit against the church is to cultivate a relationship with the living Lord. Fall in love with Jesus and you will fall in love with the church. You will want to be with others of like mind and faith, because people who love one another want to talk and fellowship together. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” (1 John 4:7)
Those who do not fall in love with Jesus, those who refuse to obey the gospel, will find themselves being hatched, matched, dispatched—and barred from heaven. If a person does not like to assembly with God’s people, they will not like heaven, which is the ultimate assembly of the saints.
NO EXCUSE SUNDAY
DEDICATED TO MISSING CHURCH ATTENDEES!
To make it possible for everyone to attend church this Sunday, we are going to have a special “No Excuse Sunday”:
Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say, “Sunday is my only day to sleep in.”
There will be a special section with lounge chairs for those who feel that our pews are too hard.
Eye drops will be available for those with tired eyes from watching TV late Saturday night.
We will have steel helmets for those who say, “The roof would cave in if I ever came to church.”
Blankets will be furnished for those who think the church is too cold, and fans for those who say it is too hot.
Scorecards will be available for those who wish to list the hypocrites present.
Relatives and friends will be in attendance for those who can’t go to church and cook dinner, too.
We will distribute “Stamp Out Stewardship” buttons for those that feel the church is always asking for money.
One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to seek God in nature.
Doctors and nurses will be in attendance for those who plan to be sick on Sunday.
The sanctuary will be decorated with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who never have seen the church without them.
We will provide hearing aids for those who can’t hear the preacher and cotton wool for those who think he’s too loud!
Hope to see you there!