What’s So Important About Attending Church?
The Christian faith has so many aspects to it, that it makes it very difficult to handle all of them from the pulpit. Some aspects are better addressed in written form, because it allows us to sit back and reflect on what we read.
In the previous post we looked at Part 3, 4 and 5 of an essay by Cooper Abrams on the topic: “What’s So Important About Attending church?”
Part 6 What Are Some Negative Effects of Being Unfaithful to the Local Church?
- One is not being obedient to the Lord (Heb. 10:15).
2. One is not obeying the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19 20; 1 Tim. 2:2).
3. One is not putting Christ first place in their life (Col. 1:18b).
4. One is not living a sacrificial life but rather a worldly life (Rom. 12:1-2).
5. One is being a stumbling block to others (Rom. 14:13, 1 Cor. 8:9).
6. One cannot edify others when he is not faithful to the church. (Rom. 14:19; 1 Cor. 14:12; Eph 4:12, 16; 1 Thess. 5:11).
7. One is causing others to fall (Mal. 2:8).
8. One cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit of God and be unfaithful (Eph. 5:18).
9. One cannot serve God and be a good steward, without being faithful to Him (1 Cor. 4:2).
11. One cannot show he loves the brethren by refusing to gather with them (1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:14).
12. One cannot show he loves the Lord if he does not obey Christ (Luke 6:46).
Let’s be honest. What goes through your mind when you notice someone is missing from the church’s service? Of course you wonder where they are. If they normally attend services and are absent, you will wonder if they are sick, or some emergency has kept them away. Once, in a morning service my church had prayer for a member who failed to show up for a service. The members noticed that he was absent and knowing his past faithful attendance suggested we have special prayer for him. After the service many called his home to check on him. Finally, late that evening, he answered the phone. He was quite embarrassed to have to explain he had gone fishing!
Another time, I had a dear woman get very upset with me and the church for not knowing she had been ill and had spent several days in the hospital. I apologized for not visiting her in the hospital and explained I was unaware of her illness. She replied I should have known when she was not in church the preceding Sunday. The truth was she had never regularly attended church. She had only attended one or two Sunday morning services in the past several months. Most of the time there was no legitimate reason for her absence, so no one was overly concerned about her missing that service. The church assumed it was normal for her to miss many services.
Another experience I had; was with a couple, who were leaders in the church, and had been regularly attending church for many years. They were faithful and when the doors opened you could count on them being in their seats. They were an encouragement to me and set a good example before the whole assembly. One Sunday morning, about an hour before Sunday school, the phone rang. It was the wife of this couple, and she explained that they would not be in church that day. She said she just wanted me to know that some of their relatives where visiting, and since it was such a pretty day, they had decided to go to the lake and fish. She explained she did not want me to be worried about them. At first, I thought she was joking. But, it was not a joke. I was glad she called, but was greatly concerned at their actions. That Sunday started a trend, and it became a regular thing for them occasionally to miss services for various reasons. When people in the church began to ask about them, I was a little embarrassed to tell them where they were. In time, it affected their testimony, and I also noticed others began to miss services, following their example. They were not upset with anything in the church, but for some reason decided they had other things to do. Maybe they thought their past faithfulness entitled them to miss a Sunday or two. I seriously doubt they thought out what the effect of their actions would be to themselves and the church. They gave up a lot, when they decided to be unfaithful to the Lord. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you”(Matt. 6:33). The whole church was affected by their staying out of church. They gave up eternal rewards for a few hours on the lake.
As a pastor, probably the most discouraging thing I have to deal with is poor attendance by some members of the church. Often, I have spent hours studying a passage and preparing a message or lesson for my congregation. As Sunday approaches, I am excited about application of this truth in the lives of the congregation. Often, I can think of several in the church who are struggling in their Christian lives, and I cannot wait to preach the Word of God and provide the answer to their need, from the Word. I am excited about being able to help them by showing, from the Word of God, principles that would help them.
Sad to say, the Devil also knows what is happening in the lives of my congregation. He sometimes has greater access to them and influence with them, than I do. On many Sundays, God gave me a message for them and they never got to hear it, because they let a hobby, beautiful day or even a rainy one keep them from the house of the Lord. I can tell you, it deeply hurts when this happens, and it happens much too often.
How often I’ve watched professing Christian families, in effect, teach their children to also be unfaithful to the Lord. Often I grieve for the wasted lives of children, whose parents regularly kept them from Sunday School and church to spend the day pursuing some hobby or recreational activity the parents wanted to enjoy. I often wonder how much grief rebellious children have caused their parents, that could have been avoided if they had just kept them in church and Sunday school? At times, the unfortunate outcome is that the children of these professing Christian parents have little or no interest in spiritual things. Often the result of unfaithful parents is unsaved children. In my years of pastoring, I have never personally known of children of unfaithful Christian parents growing up and being faithful themselves. So often I think of the children I have been privileged to teach who showed great promise of being used of the Lord, but as they grew older, they began to see the unfaithfulness in their parent’s lives. They began to follow their disobedient parents, and soon they too, fell by the wayside.
I have even known parents who punished their children, for some disobedient act, by not letting them attend youth activities at their church. What a negative message this must be to the child. Church youth activities are important in the lives of our young people. There they receive Biblical instruction and personal support tailored to help them in their lives. Parents should never refuse attendance at church activities, as a means of punishment.
Once, about two hours before Wednesday night prayer meeting and Bible study, I received several phone calls. One member only said they were not coming, without explanation; another called and said they had company and the husband had just gotten home; another, who my wife went by to give a ride to church, had forgotten it was Wednesday night; our adult Sunday School teacher and his family did not even bother calling to let us know they were not coming. That night only one dear woman showed up. I thank God for her. She is always faithful, and if she is not at church, there is a good reason. I was embarrassed, and I hoped no one came by and saw the empty parking lot or that we had visitors that night. If someone did come by, what would they think of our church? Would they want to attend such a dead looking church that had only one person show up for Wednesday night? I hoped no one in town would notice, but I know the Lord did. He knew that most of the members of this church had abandoned Him that night. My wife, this dear woman and myself, were the only ones who met that night. We prayed for these missing members and the needs of our church. It is impossible to have a vibrant outgoing church when people do not attend.
The effect of Christians forsaking the assembling of themselves together has far-reaching consequences. How easy it is to think light of the matter and ignore its importance. Apathy toward the things of God always begins with little, seemingly small, unimportant inconsistencies in our commitment to the Lord. But in time, indifference grows and matures into open rebellion. It can be compared to a small cancer, if it is ignored and allowed to grow, it becomes fatal.
I wonder how many pastors who deeply loved the Lord became, in time, so discouraged by the unfaithfulness of some of the membership of their church that they quit the ministry. How many preachers have lost heart, lost their zeal and enthusiasm for the ministry, because professing Christians failed to support their church? No pastor can accomplish even half of what he could, after he has lost heart and become discouraged.
Many pastors will prepare a series of messages or studies that take a number of weeks to teach. In order for the series to be fully understood and applied in a believer’s life they need to be present at every meeting. The pastor eagerly awaits the time of the meeting fully prepared with charts, notes and study materials that have taken weeks to prepare. What a disappointment when only a handful of people show up or, over the course of the study, miss several of the classes. I have had people ask questions, during a Bible study, that I need to study in order to give them an answer. I would promise to have the answer for them the following week. At the next meeting I would be ready with the answer, having spent many hours studying the matter, and find the person who asked the question did not attend.
How many churches, with full membership rolls, have been literally rendered ineffective by poor attendance? It is unfortunate that in many churches their members remained babies, having to be fed milk, as the Apostle Paul said, when they should have matured enough to eat meat (1 Cor. 3:2, Heb. 5:12) Churches, whose members are unfaithful to the Lord, remain weak, milk fed infants, too frail to be of any real service to the Lord. Paul said he wanted to feed them spiritual “meat,” but he concluded, ” . . . ye were not able to bear it.” The writer to the Hebrews, addressed the same problem: “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracle of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not strong meat” (Heb. 5:12). A healthy church grows and wins the lost in direct proportion to how its members mature. A great man of God many years ago is reported to have said that he wondered what God could accomplish with one man who was totally dedicated to the Lord. I too wonder what God could do with a church that was totally committed to Him.
I am sure most pastors personally understand the Lord’s statement to the lukewarm church at Laodicea. Jesus says to them, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot: So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will slue thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15 16). Lukewarm professing Christians cannot be relied upon, and you never know from week to week whether they will be at church or not. You cannot give them jobs, because you will never know whether they will do them or not. Because of their poor attendance they can contribute little or nothing to the church. Oh, what they are missing by wasting the opportunities that God is giving them. What a blessing that could be to others and, in turn, to themselves.
My friend, the failure of so many to faithfully attend the services of their church, shows a serious spiritual problem between them and the Lord. Not attending church is only the symptom of a deeper spiritual failure. It is a positive indicator that their relationship with God is not right. God’s children love each other and, like any normal family, want to be together. They want to worship God, they love the preaching and teaching of the Bible at church. Did not God say in 1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.”
Sadly, many who are unfaithful have, possibly, never been saved and have been given a false hope of heaven when they die. Yet, these lost souls are comfortably able to fit into the church, because of the poor example of saved church members. Unhappily, a certain percentage of the church will always regularly fail to attend. A worse situation is when the church with poor attendance begins to accept it as normal. God’s preacher should not be complacent about this matter, and he should never be satisfied with his flock giving anything but their best to the Lord. The church is important to Christ, important enough that Eph. 5:25 says,“gave himself for it”. To me, that proves the church’s importance in God’s plan.
[Next time we will God willing continue with Part 7 of Cooper Abrams’s essay on the question: “What’s So Important About Attending Church?”]