We continue with our survey results of this congregation's top ten sins and struggles. Today we look at the #6 issue which you listed as neglecting the church. This is a common problem so we will look at some reasons why brethren do this and why we need to make an effort at attendance and service.
Neglecting the Church
Actually, people said a variety of things about this area:
- Neglecting church service
- Neglecting to give regularly
- Neglecting to serve in some way
But all of these begin with the habit of neglecting to come regularly to all the services of the church. Note that the Hebrew writer says,
...let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some.
- Hebrews 10:25
In speaking of the worship and other gatherings of the church, the writer encourages them not to change the "habit" of coming to church for the habit of not coming to church. Therein lies the answer to the problem of neglecting worship and the other problems that stem from this, neglecting giving and serving. If one can cultivate the habit of coming to church rather than the habit of not coming, attendance, giving, and serving will follow suit.
Of course regular church attendance has always been a problem (even in the First Century because the Hebrew writer talks about it) and the excuses for neglect have always been the same. To help us become more faithful in this area I have complied ten of the most common excuses for not coming to church, and three good ones to help you be here every time. Maybe if we shine the light on this it will help us to overcome when we are tempted to use them to avoid church services.
Top 10 Reasons for Missing Church
10. I am Jewish
Obviously the main reason why people do not come to church is because the vast majority of people in the world are not Christians. The number of believers in the world today is about the same as it was in 1830, but the world's population has gone from two billion to over six billion. This is why the great commission is still on force today: more souls, less Christians to bring the gospel to them. We need every Christian in church because we need every Christian.
9. I am Sick
Each week someone, somewhere among those who regularly attend are ill or taking care of someone who is ill. This is normal. Statistics in church surveys tell us that at any given time five to ten percent of a congregation is dealing with illness that prevents them from attending. The danger is that a period of illness breaks the cycle of regular attendance and a member picks up the habit of irregular attendance. We need to watch out for that.
8. I am Changing
Life is a continual process of change (moving, college, marriage, babies, new jobs, more babies, etc.). With these changes come interruptions in our routines and habits. One habit that suffers during a period of change is usually church attendance, just like it does when illness strikes. Coming to church sometimes gets packed away with other items that we promise ourselves to "sort out" once we get settled, and lots of times it never gets "unpacked".
7. I am Working
There was a time when industry and government recognized that this was a Christian country and working on Sunday or irregular shifts was less prevalent. Today, we live in a multi-racial, multi-religious country where people accommodate schedules, not the other way around. Providing for family is a priority (I Timothy 5:8) it is unfortunate that society makes that something that interferes more and more with our spiritual lives. Sometimes however, we work because we would rather get ahead in the world than get ahead in the kingdom.
6. I am New
One of the most embarrassing moments for the preacher is announcing the good news that we have a new brother or sister in Christ (baptism) and ask them to stand at Sunday A.M. service and they are not there; they do not show up for Wednesday services either. Young Christians may know about the gospel and how to be saved but they need to be trained in Christian living and patiently taught about the need and rewards of regular attendance. Their faith is weak and needs to be strengthened. Coming to church regularly is an acquired habit developed by word and example but it is has to be taught. It does not come automatically with baptism.
5. I am Busy
There is a difference between I am working and I am busy; one is need and the other is want. The busy person is not a bad person, just busy. In Mark 4:18-19 (The Sower and the Seed) Jesus describes this person to a T; busy concerned with problems, busy getting ahead, busy building a place for himself in this world. This person has a priority problem. He/she allows the urgent things in this life to take over the important things. Busy people do not realize that God has promised that if we put kingdom things first (like church attendance) He will find a way to provide all those other things we are so busy trying to acquire for ourselves. J.C. Penny, "if you are too busy to worship... you are too busy.". For example, Chick-Fil-A franchises in the U.S. are closed on Sundays.
4. I am Hurt
Many people come less and less to church because they have genuinely been hurt. Hurt by another member's comment, hurt by a perceived lack of attention by the leaders and ministers (don't know they are hurting many times), hurt by some things that are being done in a way they do not agree with (cannot always get our way and some are offended when they do not), hurt by the preacher and teacher in a lesson (no sermon ever written for one person in particular). It is unfortunate when this happens and I am persuaded that when there is an offense it is never intentional. It is sad when people leave the church, and unfortunate for two reasons:
- Leaving the church because you are offended will not justify you before God. Jesus warned His disciples that they would be subjected to persecutions, false teachers, and sufferings of all kinds (spiritual, physical and even environmental). But He says, "the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved." (Mark 13:9-23). Regardless of the offense, leaving the church is not the answer nor is it something God excuses.
- Stopping a regular attendance because we are hurt or hurting (sometimes we are hurting because of some loss or tragedy or disappointment and we decide to take it out on God by ignoring Him) is never the answer. Jesus teaches us what we need to do when we are offended (go to the brother/sister in private etc.) (Matthew 18:15), or hurting (ask for prayers and help) (James 5:13). Let us not offend God for the offenses committed against us. Better that we "turn the other cheek" rather than abandon the one who died for us. That is why we offer an invitation, so we can minister to each other. Never going to grow until we humble ourselves and start asking each other for help and prayer.
3. I am Lazy
I have only met one person who actually sincerely acknowledged that this was the cause of many of his problems and failures, I admire that person for their honesty. Let us face it, going to church on a regular basis requires physical and mental effort: preparation and travel (multiplied if you have kids, I feel for those moms who get those kids to church), discipline to sit and listen, work involved if you are teaching, preaching, serving somehow, mental effort to take in information, spiritual effort that comes with the continual adjustments and changes demanded by the Holy Spirit as He molds us into a Christ-like image. The definition of a lazy person according to the dictionary is, "one who dislikes physical or mental effort." Proverbs tell it this way, "The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is weary of bringing it to his mouth again." (Proverbs 26:15) (lazy man will not even feed himself). The Lord provides for the nourishment of the only thing that will survive this world, a person's soul, and yet laziness keeps so many from feeding themselves on a regular basis. Best way to deal with laziness is to acknowledge it as sin and ask God's help to overcome every day, especially on Sunday.
2. I am Worldly
One of the saddest stories in the Bible is the reference to Demas. In Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 24, Demas is counted among Paul's helpers and faithful disciples of the Lord. In his last letter from Rome, Paul refers to Demas, this time he says, "for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica." (II Timothy 4:10). Some Christians do not come regularly because they love the world more than they love Christ. They love the smell of money more than the smell of the sacrifice of praise. They love the activity, the allurements, the pleasures of this world more than the activities, pleasures and promises of the next.
This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
- John 3:19
When we are involved in a sin of some kind (secret life) and have no desire to let it go, make no effort to struggle against it, we lose interest in the light shining on us and it shines brightly when we are in church. Worldliness is such an insidious vice because it eats away at out spiritual life quietly and without pain until we are cold and dead in Christ but do not realize it until it is too late. We just keep making one little concession to the world after another until we are no longer of the Kingdom, but of the world and the first thing to go is usually regular church attendance. Satan's number one point of attack is to diminish your exposure to the word and other Christians and he does that by finding all kinds of reasons to take you out of church.
1. I am ______
The number one reason of course, is your reason for not being faithful to all the services of the church, whatever that may be. It could be any of the above or one I have not mentioned yet, but it is the number one reason if it keeps you out of church. For example, maybe you do not think you need to be here every time, maybe you are not convinced the Lord really wants this, maybe you do not get anything out of church services, etc. Whatever the reason, Satan has managed to find an opening in your spiritual defense and convince you somehow that not coming is ok.
Well in the last section of this lesson I want to give you three reasons why you should be here every time.
Reasons To Attend Regularly
Now some people ask, "Do I have to be there Sunday and Wednesday?" If you ask this question your problem is not attendance, your problem is love, gratitude and respect for God. We will deal with that later, for now, three reasons to come regularly:
1. Being Here Every Time Pleases God
30 I will praise the name of God with song
And magnify Him with thanksgiving.
31 And it will please the Lord better than an ox
Or a young bull with horns and hoofs.
- Psalms 69:30-31
God has always desired that His people gather to worship Him and that they do so often.
6 "Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
To minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord,
To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath
And holds fast My covenant;
7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar;
For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples."
- Isaiah 56:6-7
God was very specific about keeping the people true to the day of worship and pleased with this who kept it.
17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
- Ephesians 5:17-19
God desires that we be involved in this type of activity when we are together rather than worldly pursuits. You have a choice of activity on Sundays and Wednesdays. Worship will always be the thing that pleases God.
15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. 16 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
- Hebrews 13:15-16
God is pleased to see us offering Him praise. God is the same in the Old and New Testaments.
Pleasing God is what our life is about, to know and glorify Him is the essential meaning of life. When we worship Him we know we are doing the right thing. When we worship, we have reached the zenith of what life is all about. Not coming requires an excuse (good or bad) but being here never requires an excuse. Our conscience is clear because we are doing the absolute right thing. You want to please someone you love, this is a plain truth. Then, being here, and being here every time pleases God and demonstrates our love for Him.
The problem many times is that we would rather please ourselves and make church attendance convenient, fun, easy, pleasant, etc., but we need to remember that the object of worship is to please Him, not us.
2. Being Here Every Time Strengthens Your Faith
When people have problem and you ask them what they need, aside from physical help, they usually ask for more faith. The Apostles witnessed the miracles and yet when it came time to ask him for something they asked Him to increase their faith (Luke 17:5). Faith is not only necessary for salvation but is also necessary to be able to persevere through the ups and downs of life so we can obtain that salvation.
Such and important thing, faith, how do you acquire it, how do you strengthen it?
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
- Romans 10:17
All the activities in the world combined do not add a single drop to our faith. Hearing, sharing, learning God's word, this sparks faith and helps it to grow.
What you are able to do in the name of the Lord (resist sin, persevere in suffering, doing good, bearing spiritual fruit) are all based on the strength of your faith and the strength of you faith is proportional to your exposure to God's word and God's people. There are no short-cuts. Weak attendance equals weak faith, equals weak Christian with little fruit. Strong faith is usually a result of much teaching and for most Christians that only comes through regular attendance. Some will inevitably ask, "If I only come to Sunday a.m. worship and skip the rest, can I still go to heaven?" My personal answer to this is, probably not, not because you do not come regularly but because your question tells me that you are a legalist and Pharisee doing only what you have to do. You have fallen from grace and are trying to get through religious works (minimum religious works at that). This question shows a lack of knowledge regarding the faith. You need to come to church, not to increase your attendance level, you need to come to church so you can learn about God's grace and be free from the Law. If you keep this attitude, no amount of church attendance will save you. I am not saying, "If you do not go to Wednesday night Bible study, you are going to hell." I am saying that if this is your attitude you are a legalist and fallen from grace. We are saved by faith, se see by faith, we walk by faith, we can cast mountains into the ocean by faith and that faith is conceived and nourished every time we come here. Why come to church every time? Because every time we leave, we leave with stronger faith.
3. Being Here Builds the Church
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
- Hebrews 10:23-25
Problem was that these Jewish Christians were weak in the faith and were being tempted to return to Judaism. Their absence contributed to their weak faith and their weak faith could not sustain them when under pressure. In addition to this, their absence was hurting others. Why he encourages them not to abandon the assembly and exhorts them to give an example and word of encouragement to others as well.
You presence at all services is critical in the building up of the church. Through regular attendance at all services, you:
- Proclaim Christ to each other and the community (I Corinthians 11:26).
- Provide an example to others (Hebrews 10:23-29). What do you think your absence says to the children and younger Christians? It says, "When I grow up or when I am an experienced saint it will be ok to skip church." Well it is not on and your example is one of weakness and immaturity, not strength.
- By attending all services you contribute towards the needs of the saints (I Corinthians 16:1-77). Not just money, but knowing who needs help and learning how we can serve.
- Demonstrate your support of the leadership. The elders have set these times as a way of protecting and feeding your should, refusing to come is a refusal of this leadership. The Bible says we must submit to those whom the Lord has set over us in Christ (Hebrews 13:17).
We have built the building with wood and brick but faithfulness to all the services is the cornerstone upon which the building of the congregation rests
As I close I want to say to all those who put down church attendance as a problem that their struggle is nothing new. It was there when he church was established (Hebrews 10:25) and the Bible says it will be there until the end of the world (Matthew 24:12). The solution then, now and in the future has always been and will always be the same:
- Begin to cultivate the habit of regular attendance to all services.
- Get involved in the work of the church.
- Realize that coming to church is always the best choice and God will reward you.