Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Where is everybody? Church attendance

Name the congregation where attendance is the same Sunday morning and night. Name one. Can’t do it? Didn’t think so.

There are several reasons usually given as to why people do not attend evening services on Sunday, or Bible Study on Wednesday, such as:
1)      Uncommitted.
2)      Wrong priorities.
3)      Unconcerned about others.
There are some other reasons I have observed for this falloff of numbers:
1)      Work schedules
2)      Driving distances
3)      Elderly do not return
4)      Some are not members at all, but casual attendees (we have a couple handfuls of these).
I want to know why we’re having this discussion in the first place, and I want to ask some questions.

Is it a sin? Is it a matter of fellowship? If so, then we are surely in error for not correcting and withdrawing fellowship.

Are people who attend “every service of the church” better Christians than those who don’t? I’ve met some Christians who think that if they attend “every service” that they can look down their nose that those who don’t. You know what they say about two wrongs, right?

Should we seek to entice people to attend every service? Should we make extra efforts to provide opportunities for work, service and encouragement as part of these “extra” services (assemble meetings, 
dinners, works, etc. on Sunday/Wednesday, etc.)?

Should we shame people who do not attend every service? Should we publicly let everyone who is not coming know how uncommitted they are, and how they are failing in their duty?

I believe our ability to point out the misgivings of others should be tempered by our desire to offer solutions. But what usually happens is that a blanket label of “unfaithfulness” is thrown on people, and they are left with that. I’d be surprised if that worked as a motivation more than 1 out of 100 times. 

I’ve known VERY FEW if ANY who have ever heard a lesson on assembly attendance, in which members were isolated, labeled and shamed, and then they all happily returned that Sunday night for worship, and forever more never missed a service of the church. If it’s happening where you are, then I’ll gladly stand corrected. I’m not saying that there isn’t a time for correction, and even shame; but I don’t believe it’s the first option.

What if, instead, we behaved as if it really mattered to us?

What if – instead of assuming and berating – we went personally to those we believe are uncommitted, had bad priorities, or were unconcerned about the rest of the saints – as loving brothers and sisters – and ASKED THEM why they didn’t return for other services. And in the meantime, we let them know how much we would appreciate their attendance with us. What if we invited them back frequently, and let them know that their attendance and their increased involvement would be such an encouragement to us? Novel, I know.

I have a suspicion that most of us probably don’t know these people well enough, and haven’t done the hard work of building the bonds of trust enough, to have that conversation with them. And so long as we choose to isolate and label first, without doing the hard work of building relationships based on trust and love, then we can probably expect much of the same.

Until we are willing to do the hard work of building relationships and trust with our brothers and sisters, I largely doubt that the feeling of obligation produced by momentary shame will produce much in the way of lasting results. 

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