Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I think that part of the reason is that not enough of the folks in the Church -- including those in the pews nearly every Sunday morning -- actually believe that this is where you are supposed to be. It is as if worship is till an optional activity -- even to those who believe it is important enough for them to be there every week. I am convinced that the routine absences of so many will not change we all agree that it is the absence which is the anomaly or aberration and that the norm for Christians is to be together around the Word and Table of the Lord, in His House, on His day. Period.
I have been here for over 17 years and still people smile when I say that the expectation is that every member will be here in worship and Sunday school every Sunday. Yeah, sure, Pastor.... Well, I am not kidding. This is not my expectation but the Lord's. And it ought to be ours as well -- each Christian holding one another accountable to this goal and expectation.
It does not comfort me to know that the homily we call the Book of Hebrews mentions that this problem was an early problem of Christians -- neglecting the gathering together of God's people every Lord's Day around His Word and Table. It may be an old problem but it is a problem getting worse. We may have more distractions, more choices, more time for ourselves, more of an expectation of freedom to do what is pleasing to us and important in our own eyes -- more than in previous generations -- but this is not necessarily a good thing. We are too free to stay away.
I am not advocating a legalistic attendance policy (although I am old enough to know when chapel attendance was taken and a skip might find you in the Dean of Students Office). What I am advocating is the expectation on the part of everyone that God's people will be together with the Lord every Sunday (and, yes, we have a variety of service times even on non-Sundays to cover those who work). This is the great work of my life and ministry as a Pastor -- to instill this expectation and goal in the lives and hearts and minds of every member of this congregation and everyone who joins.
I am not alone. One member family told me of the member who followed up on them week after week when they were still learning to this expectation and counseled and encouraged and challenged them -- like a conscience in a good way -- until the habit of faithful worship bore its fruit in their lives as well. Such should be the ministry of those in the pew as well as the sharing of their faith with those who do not know Jesus Christ and the invitation of friends, neighbors, co-workers, and others to come with them to worship on Sunday morning...