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Showing posts with label Church Attendance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Church Attendance. Show all posts

Monday, April 9, 2018

What About Church Brings Me Joy & What Breaks My Heart?


Watch the Lamb
            East Cobb United Methodist Church in Marietta, GA was the first church my wife and I joined as adults.  We were newly married and looking for a church home while attending college.  We attended ECUMC and the choir performed a song for Easter called, "Watch the Lamb".  (You can watch a powerful rendition of the title song, "Watch the Lamb here.) 
            "Watch the Lamb" tells the story of a Jewish man taking his children and a sacrificial lamb to Jerusalem for the annual Passover sacrifice.  He instructs the children to watch the lamb so that it doesn't run away.  The family arrives in the city just as Jesus, the Lamb of God, is being led away to be crucified.  The father is pressed into service by Roman soldiers to carry Jesus' cross (because Jesus is to weakened by the beating they gave him).  Simon of Cyrene (the father and the man Matthew 27:32 names as the man who carried Jesus' cross) is changed forever when he witnesses Jesus, the Lamb of God's, crucifixion.  He ends the song by telling his children again to watch the Lamb, but now meaning the true Lamb, the true sacrifice, Jesus.
            The song touched me deeply as a young adult seeking to follow Christ and we joined East Cobb UMC shortly after Easter.  I'm thankful for East Cobb and how they were a home and a beacon of light for Kelly and I in that critical stage of life.  Ever since, I have tried to watch the Lamb and follow him wherever He leads.
            Jesus died on the cross and rose on the third day.  Before he ascended to heaven, Jesus gave his disciples an important mission to go into all the world to make disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19).  Then, he gave them the Holy Spirit to empower them to succeed.  And even though those early Christians met stiff opposition, they began to multiply.  The book of Acts tells their story.  Here is a snap shot of that early church. 

Acts 4:32-35
32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.

The Church Was Not and Is Not Perfect
            Acts 4:32-35 is an example of the New Testament Church at its best.  Some people are tempted to think the early church was perfect and look back through the lens of nostalgia and think if we could just go back and be like them it would solve all out problems.  This is a na├»ve point of view.  The New Testament Church was far from perfect.  Yes, they were growing exponentially despite persecution.  However, the church was made up of imperfect people and therefore imperfect itself.  There were politics, lies, and deceit.  They often disagreed about doctrinal issues.  They were still figuring out what Jesus meant by all his teachings and how their faith was to be lived out authentically.  One of the Church's most important leaders, Peter, had to be called on the carpet by Paul because Peter was more worried about what some people might think of him than actually doing the right thing (see Galatians 2:11-14).  So the Church never has been and still is not perfect, even though it was established by the perfect Lamb of God. 

A Thought Provoking Question
            One of my church members, DJ Seifert, is enrolled in a course called Leadership UMC.  He is one of only three people from my district chosen to attend this course for people noted for their passion for Jesus and potential to serve as leaders in the Church.  A few weeks ago, they invited the participant's pastors to attend a weekend retreat with the participants.  They asked a question that really got me thinking.  They asked: “What about the Church today brings you joy and what breaks your heart?”   That’s what I want to share with you today.  However, before I can answer that question, we need to consider what the church is.
            When we use the word church, we often mean a place or a building we go to attend religious services.  But that is not the true sense of the word church.  The Church (with a capital C) is the Body of Christ on Earth.  1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”  Jesus is not dead.  He is alive and he ascended to heaven.  But he has not abandoned this world.  His ministry here continues through the believers of his Church.  We are his physical presence here on earth to the world, His body. 
            The Church is Jesus’ chosen instrument to carry on his mission to make disciples.  Jesus did not make an alternate plan.  This is it--the Church.  So, like it or not, the Church (with all it's imperfections) is Jesus' plan to change the world.
            Some say the Church in America is dying.  I don't believe it.  It is true that attendance is declining at church services across North America.  However, the Church will never die.  The Church will always be here until the day Jesus returns in the clouds as promised (Acts 1:11).  Church buildings may close, church services may discontinue (at least as we have known them in our lifetime), but the Church (with a capital C) will never die.  Wherever there are people who truly believe in Jesus Christ and seek to follow Him, they will gather together for prayer, study, fellowship, and shared service (as described in Acts 4:32-35).  And wherever this happens, there is the Church.

What About the Church Brings Me Joy?
            There are many things I enjoy about church.  Sunday worship is my favorite time of the week.  I love feeling the Spirit of God move as we sing the songs of our faith.  However, the thing that brings me the most joy in the Church is seeing people’s lives changed for the better. 
            God changed my life forever for the better.  As a child, my life was not on a good trajectory.  If I had continued on the path I was headed, I would have ended up in a very dark place.  Many of the friends who walked that path with me ended up in that dark place.  Some are not even alive anymore.  But, praise God, Jesus saved me and set my feet on a new path.  As I've followed Him, I have found meaning, peace, and joy.
            And since I am so thankful that Jesus graciously took a  retch like me and turned his life around, I love seeing Him do the same for others.  Sometimes it happens in very dramatic ways--like the prodigal son in Jesus' parable in Luke15:11-32.  More often than not, it happens in more subtle ways.  Sometimes the hardest cases are not those who have made an obvious mess of their lives.  The most challenging turn arounds are for those who think they are already good people who have it all together and do the right thing.  They are more like the self-righteous, unmerciful "good" son in the prodigal story and the Pharisees and religious leaders who crucified Jesus.  But I have had the joy of seeing even some of these lives changed by my Lord and Savior.
            Part of the joy of seeing a person's life changed by Christ includes watching people find their calling.  The Holy Spirit gives each of us a special gift to help serve the Body of Christ.  It is a wonder to behold when a person discovers their gift and start using it.  I love helping people identify their gift and find a place to put it to good use.

What About the Church Breaks My Heart?
            As I said before, the Church is not perfect and so there are also things in the church that disappoint me.  Like many others, I dislike the politics, the petty squabbles, and the ugliness that sometimes happens within church congregations.  However, what really breaks my heart is all the people who are missing out on the joy that can only be found when you're truly engaged in Christ's Church.
            My heart breaks for those who aren't here.  Church attendance is down across our country for many reasons.  Many have stopped coming because they are more focused on the things that disappoint them about the Church than the Lamb who makes the Church holy.  Others are too interested in the things of this world which choke the desire for the authentic spiritual connection Christ's offers through His Church.  Some grew up have never having come to church or establish the spiritual habit of gathering together with the Body of Christ; they don't even know what they're missing!  Others, who once came, have fallen away.  And then there are also those who come to church, but who are not really engaged.  They attend church but aren't really present; and these too are missing out on the fullness of what Christ has to offer and it breaks my heart.
            My heart is especially broken today for the many young adults who are not in regular worship at my church (or others).  We have at least 25 young adults (aged between 18-30) associated with my congregation who do not regularly attend my church.  This is the age when I experienced so much spiritual growth and it troubles me that others in that age range are absent when so many important, "course of your life" decisions are being made.  Consider some of the decisions you make in your young adult years:  what (if any) college to attend, whether to stay in college or drop out, who to marry, having kids, choosing a career, deciding what you really believe about God, where to live, who to live with...  These are big decisions and people will live with the consequences for the rest of their lives.  And it breaks my heart that these years are also the years most young adults drift away from the Church when they need the Church's spiritual guidance the most.

Go to Church and Invite Someone to Join You
            The Church is not perfect, but it is the Body of Christ.  It is where we come to watch the Lamb of God.  It is where we see people’s lives changed forever for the better as they grow closer to Christ.  It is where we are changed forever—if we will let Jesus’ love into our heart.  I would like to invite everyone reading this to come to Church.  If you live near Dalton, GA, I'd love for you to come to my church--Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church.  If not here, then find a church where you are.  There are many great options available.  Find one near you.  If you think traditional "church" like we've been doing it in America isn't for you, think outside the box and find some way to plug in to Church with a capital C.  Get together with a group of Christian believers to pray, study the Bible, fellowship, and serve together.  It is absolutely critical.
            And if you are already attending and active in church, praise God!  I commend you!  Keep at it.  Now, invite someone to join you.  This is absolutely critical too.  It's not an option for believers.  It's what Jesus commanded us to do.  It is the purpose of the Church.  Jesus said, "Go make disciples..." (Matthew 28:19-20)  So invite someone to church!  And then another and another and another...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What If Churches Were More Like Football Stadiums?

The Satirical Truth As Far As I Can Tell…

Matthew 2:10-12 – 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

            The Wisemen traveled from far, far away to come worship the Savior who was born king of the Jews.  They counted it an honor and privilege to go to such great lengths to see baby Jesus and offer their precious gifts.  Oh that we all were as determined to worship Christ as were they.  
            I am always pondering ways to get more people in church to worship the King.  Football is king in the south.  People go to great lengths to see their favorite team play.  Millions flock into overcrowded stadiums each weekend.  Maybe what football stadiums do will work for the church.  You think?

What if we sold expensive tickets for admission?
            Attending church is free.  Sure, we take up an offering, but
it’s totally voluntary.  Maybe that’s the problem.  The cheapest ticket you could buy for the Nov. 10 Auburn/Georgia game was $189/seat (and that was in the nose bleed section).  Good seats on the home side of the 50 yard line were closer to $800-900/person.  So you couldn’t get your family of 5 seats at the game for less than $945.  With prices like that, our church could generate at least $100,000 per service in ticket sales alone.  The only problem I see here is determining which are the best seats in the House.  Most people want to sit up front and close to the action at the game, but usually on the back row in the church service. 

What if we made people pay for their programs?
            We hand out church bulletins for free and they usually end up in the trash or left in the pews after the service.  Last year’s Superbowl program sells online for $17.99 + tax and it’s a collector’s item.  Churches are tax exempt, so you’d still get a bargain if we sold ours at a comparable price.  We could earn thousands from program sales.  (Now we just need to figure out concessions—Holy Communion maybe?) 
Since people are dying to pay these exorbitant prices to squeeze into cramped stadium seats to watch sweaty athletes chase each other, surely they will flock to our church to sit in comfortable cushioned pews in a beautiful sanctuary to worship the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins.  Our sanctuary will be packed and our parking lot won’t be able to handle all the cars.  So…

We’ll need to charge for parking.
            People will pay $7 to park at the SEC championship game, but that’s 10 blocks away.  They’ll have to pay $40 dollars or more to get reasonably close.  Perhaps the church can be generous and just charge $20 for a spot in our lot and subcontract out the rest to nearby businesses.  Those parking lots will only cost $5-10 depending on how far away they are.

What if a church service was as long as a football game?
  No one will pay football prices for a 1 hour church service.  That’s just dumb.  The average football game last 3 hours (even though the ball is actually in play for only about 11 minutes).  People deserve to get what they pay for, so we’ll graciously extend the worship service to 3 hours.  Preachers need a lot more time to go deep anyway.  Think how fast we will be able to cure the biblical illiteracy and moral decline in our nation when we commit so much time, energy, effort, and money to worshiping and learning about Christ in church.  Of course, I’m no expert and I certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the satirical Truth as far as I can tell…
Remember, God loves you and so do I!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell... Church Attendance

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell…

Hebrews 10:25 says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.” 

Attending church regularly is important.  A wise pastor once preached a sermon on the subject without saying a word.  I’d like to share that message with you today as I once heard it shared with me.

The Lonely Ember 
A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. 
After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.  
Guessing the reason for his pastor's visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself comfortable but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs.
After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet fascination.
As the one lone ember's flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and "dead as a doornail."
Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.
Just before the pastor was ready to leave, he picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.
As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday." 

Attending church regularly is important.  I challenge you to miss no more than 5 Sundays this year.  You will be blessed.  The fire of your faith will burn brighter.  Of course, I’m no expert and I certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the Truth as far as I can tell… 

Remember, God loves you and so do I!

 
 
 
 
 

Monday, January 4, 2016

The State of the Communion Address

Introduction
    One of my favorite scriptures is Philippians 2:5-11 because it summarizes who Christ is and encourages us to imitate him.  Listen to these powerful words as you consider how you will live in 2016.
 
Philippians 2:5-11
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
 

What is this Address?
            Near the beginning of each year, the President of the United States gives a “state of the union address”.  This televised speech is made to a joint session of the congress reporting the condition of the country and outlining his legislative agenda and national priorities.
            My message this morning is a blatant rip-off of this presidential tradition.  However, I hope it will be a useful one.  I wish to report on the condition of our church (our “Communion”) and outline our agenda and priorities for the coming year.  Above all else, I pray that everything we do this year will be done with a Christ-like attitude as laid out in Philippians 2:5-11--with humility, with self-sacrificial love, giving glory to God alone, and looking forward to the ultimate triumph of God’s Kingdom. 

Children’s Ministry
            Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  In 2015, we baptized 5 people and we had 9 people saved to become disciples of Jesus Christ by profession of faith.  Of the 69 United Methodist churches reporting in our district, Pleasant Grove had the 8th highest number of professions of faith.  
The majority of our professions of faith come when children go through confirmation classes and choose to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Children are vital to the success of our church.  We have a duty to bring them to church, make sure they attend Sunday school, children’s church, and our Wednesday night children’s program so they can grow in their faith.  As children mature, they are soon able to choose Christ for themselves.  This is the primary way we initiate people into the Christian faith.  Without children, we will fail at our primary mission.  We must not fail!
            In 2016, I want Pleasant Grove to focus on strengthening our children’s ministries.  I want to see excellent communication about all children’s programing, more children participating, parents that are thrilled to bring their kids here, and children that are growing in faith.  This is the only way Pleasant Grove can be successful.  I am committed to do whatever it takes to make sure kids get everything they deserve at our church.  I ask you to join me in praying for our children’s ministries, volunteering to do your part, and let’s make our children’s ministry the best in the district.  This will be our number one focus in 2016.   
 

Spiritual Growth
            Discipleship begins with a profession of faith, but it continues as a person grows closer to Christ and more committed to their faith.  People experienced spiritual growth in a number of ways at Pleasant Grove in 2015.  One measurable way I can report is that we had 11 people attended Chrysalis or Walk to Emmaus spiritual revitalization retreat in 2015.  Chrysalis and Emmaus retreats are a powerful way to experience the amazing love of God, learn the basics of our faith, and be inspired to serve Christ in our church and community.  I would like to see more people attend Chrysalis (for youth) or Walk to Emmaus (for adults).  Regardless of your level of spiritual development, Emmaus is a tangible way you can grow spiritually.  I would like you to attend. 

Worship Attendance
            Declining church attendance is a concern all over our nation.  Every denomination has seen decline. Pleasant Grove has struggled with attendance as well.  Since 2004, our attendance has declined steadily.  Our average attendance in 2015 was 129.  This was an increase from the previous year, but we can still do better.  There is no reason Pleasant Grove shouldn’t be filled with people every Sunday.  I know it is possible and we have seen what a full church looks like. 
            Our highest attended Sunday last year was on December 20th when we had our children’s play--207 people packed our pews. 
Our second highest Sunday was Easter with 200 people.  Our third highest Sunday was the Christmas cantata on December 13th with 185 people.  And of course you all saw how many were here for the Christmas Eve service.  People came to these services because you invited them and because these were special services.  We have to continue to invite people because every Sunday at PGUMC is a special Sunday.  It is a day Jesus Christ is here waiting to change people’s lives.  Don’t you miss out on that or let someone else miss the opportunity for Jesus to change their life and maybe their eternal destination.
            In 2016, will you join with me in renewing your commitment to be present at church every Sunday?  Let’s commit to miss no more than 5 Sundays this year.  Can you do that?  That still leaves room for several absences for vacation or for sickness or for unexpected situations.  Missing no more than 5 Sundays is very reasonable for the typical person.  
Now, maybe you’re not a typical person.  Maybe your situation is such that you need to miss more than 5 Sundays because of your job or something else really important.  Then I ask you:  what is reasonable for you?  Make weekly church attendance a top priority and decide today what your attendance goal is going to be this year and then stick to it. 

Study Groups
In 2015, it was a pleasure to work with such a creative and talented worship team to plan excellent worship.  David, Sarah, Dale, and I collaborated to bring you services covering relevant topics such as:  reconciliation, the meaning of love, purifying your life, making a new start, the 10 Commandments, the Great Commission, and arguing with Jesus about tough issues.  We finished the year with the sermon series I’ll Be Home for Christmas.  We listen for God’s direction and work very hard to bring you the best.  So you can be sure if you come (and if you invite someone to come with you), you will be blessed because we will offer you the very best that months of praying, planning, and preparation can offer.  
            Study is also vital to spiritual growth.  There are a number of ways you can plug into a small study group at Pleasant Grove.  Last year, Gary and Jean Carter took charge of our young adult program teaching a weekly Sunday school class.  This is a unique offering for young adults that not many churches have.  If you are a young adult, I urge you to take advantage of our young adult Sunday school.  Talk to Gary and Jean and let them know what you would like to see happen with young adults.  And tell your young adult children, grandchildren, or friends to come get involved with the young adults of our church.  Let’s not take our young adult program for granted.  Everyone should be active in a Sunday school class or one of our other study groups like Wednesday night study, youth, children’s ministry, or Thursday morning Bible study.
            On Wednesday nights, we completed 6 studies:  Taking Care of Business (about the Christian work ethic), Soul Detox (about purification), Before Amen (prayer), The Committee (church revitalization), Earn, Save, Give (Christian finances), and Ask: Faith Questions in a Skeptical Age.  On Thursday mornings, we completed a 6 year, in-depth, book by book journey through the whole Bible.  We are about to beginning a new, one-year study of the whole Bible in chronological order.  I invite you to join us in the fellowship hall starting this Thursday at 10:30 AM.  Or come on Wednesday night for dinner and stay for a study; this month, we are doing The Committee part 2, a series on church revitalization.  Or perhaps you would like to make it your goal to be active in a Sunday school class.  Everyone needs to be active in a small group study to grow spiritually in 2016.  Everyone means you.   

Serving Others
            C.S. Lewis said, “A church is the only organization that exists primarily for the benefit of non-members.”  Just as Jesus gave up his divine privileges in Heaven to come save and serve a lost humanity, the church is here to serve others sacrificially.  On average, our church served 74 people outside of our congregation each week in 2015.  We did this primarily through:
  • Family Promise - Four times a year, we house homeless families in our church for a week at a time in conjunction with 15 other churches in our community through Family Promise of Whitfield County.
  • Be the Church - In September, we called off our regular worship service to go into our community and do service projects for people in need.
  • Sack Lunches - On Wednesday nights, we packed sack lunches to deliver to needy kids at Pleasant Grove Elementary and North Star School so kids have at least on healthy meal to take home to eat over the weekend.
  • DOCUP - We contributed money in cooperation with other area churches to DOCUP to help needy families with rent, utility bills, food, and clothing.
  • The Layette ministry - We provided clothing, blankets, and other necessities for newborn infants in need at Hamilton Medical Center.
  • We also offered boxes of non-perishable food and various other forms of assistance directly from our church to people in need in our community.
Of course, these are only the service projects for which we have a record.  The real service of the church happens through you--the people of our church who spread throughout the community and serve people everyday in a million different ways by the way you live out your Christian faith in the world.  Thank you for being the church everyday, wherever you are.  There is no way for us to quantify all the people you serve and the tremendous impact you have on our world, but I know you make a significant difference.  Let me encourage you to keep doing good. 

Build New Relationships with Hispanics
            Pleasant Grove has 3 long range goals that guide everything we do.  They are:  1) give hope to the hopeless, 2) build new relationships, and 3) help our community.  One of the greatest opportunities God has given us to build new relationships at PGUMC is with the Hispanic community.  Every Sunday, a Hispanic church meets in our chapel for worship.  We have already begun building relationships with them in several ways.  For instance, their pastor--Isabel Ochoa--preached at one of our services last year and I preached at her service.  Also, I helped with a Quinceanera for one of their families and they helped with our Operation Christmas Child packing party.  I would like to see us growing even closer in the coming year.  We have come to a place where it is time for you (the members of this congregation) to build friendships directly with the people of Isabel’s congregation.  I hope you are ready to build these new relationships and will look for ways to build these new friendships in 2016.  I will work to lead you in that direction. 

General Conference
            2016 is a General Conference year in the United Methodist denomination.  That means United Methodist representatives from all over the world will gather for the first time since 2012 to discuss important issues about the direction of our worldwide communion.  One of the most important issues they will discuss this year in Portland, Oregon is how United Methodists will respond to homosexuality.  As you know, public opinion about homosexuality in our nation has shifted greatly and our supreme court has ruled same-sex marriages are legal in all 50 states.  How will the United Methodist Church respond?  I invite you to join with me in prayer about this important issue facing our nation and our church.  And pray for our General Conference as it seeks to provide leadership for the United Methodist Church.  Next Sunday I will begin a four week message series examining what the Bible says about homosexuality and how we can respond.  Please come with an opened mind and a humble heart. 

Summary
            In summary, I want to highlight again the issues I want Pleasant Grove to focus on in 2016:
  • Provide exceptional ministry to children
  • Spiritual Growth through worship, study, and service
  • Be present at church every Sunday (missing no more than 5 Sundays in a year) and invite more people to come with us.
  • Focus on building relationships with the Hispanics of our community
  • Pray for General Conference (May 10th - 20th)
 
New Van
I would be remiss not to point out one more great accomplishment of 2015.  Through your generosity, we raised over $40,000 to purchase a brand new church van!  This Ford Transit has already been ordered and will be ready for service very soon.  Our van will stand out everywhere it goes.  People will see it and say, “That’s the Pleasant Grove church van.  That is a great church!”  And they’re right!  We are a great church and we’re going to be even better because our van will give us the ability to take more trips safely and conveniently, go out into our community more often, and pick up people to bring them to church (I would love to see us picking up van loads of children to bring them to Sunday worship and Wednesday night activities).  
Thank you so much for your generosity that made our new van possible.  The purchase of this van just goes to show you how Pleasant Grove can take on a very big challenge and accomplish it. When we believe in ourselves, trust God, and are faithful and persistent, we can accomplish great things.  I believe this church can do anything God wants us to do if we put our minds to it.  Let’s all commit to meet the challenges facing Pleasant Grove this year--all for the glory of God!   

Reflection
What is God calling you to do in 2016?
  • Give your life to Christ?
  • Attend Church more often?
  • Get active in a study group?
  • Befriend a Hispanic person?
  • Help with our children’s ministry?
  • Make a significant change while trusting God?
God empowers and strengthens you to meet whatever challenges lie ahead. 
Trust in God, believe in yourself, be faithful and persistent, and 2016 will be a great year!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Five Ways Skipping Worship is Killing Your Church

The Truth As Far As I Can Tell…
Five Ways Skipping Worship is Killing Your Church

Acts 10:25 – And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

There are tons of things you could do on Sunday besides go to church.  Football games, vacations, competitions, amusements, and many other things beckon us to choose them instead of church.  In addition, there are many Sundays people just want to take a break and stay home.  Perhaps that is why church attendance in our country has declined steadily over the past 30 years.  It might not seem like a big deal to you, but it is hurting you spiritually and it is killing your church.

Here are five ways skipping worship on Sunday is killing your church (and your own spiritual life):

Number one – It makes the worship service less exciting for everyone. 
Your presence in worship is vital because it feeds the whole congregation.  A half-empty sanctuary makes for a dull worship service.  There are fewer voices singing the songs.  The sanctuary feels cold and lifeless.  When you skip church, you are hurting everyone else who needs you to be there as part of the body of Christ (and you are missing out too).

Number two – It discourages your leaders. 
Your pastor probably spent at least 20 hours preparing the message.  The choir director spent a similar amount of time.  The 15-30 choir members spent hours rehearsing.  Then there are other volunteers who prepared for Sunday school, children’s church, who cleaned, who set up the sanctuary, and a number of other responsibilities.  It is disrespectful of their efforts when you choose to skip church and it discourages them.  On the other hand, your full support excites and inspires them to do a great job, which builds momentum and great ministries at your church.

Number three – You lose touch with the life of your church. 
Your church is a vibrant place.  You need to stay active to grow.  You have to know what’s going on to participate.  When you skip, you don’t know what’s going on.  You can try to stay up-to-date through emails, Facebook, and newsletters, but it’s not the same.  If you are absent, you will miss something important.  It only takes one Sunday away and you already begin to drift.  Miss two or more and you are seriously out of the loop.  You better get back to church quick and get plugged in.

Number four – It messes up your priorities. 
Jesus said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else…” (Matthew 6:33).  You decide the top priorities of your life by what you spend your time, money, and energy doing.  When you choose the football game (or anything else) over church, you have made a decision about what comes first in your life.  There are thousands of things you could choose besides church, but these won’t bring you closer to the Kingdom of God.  It’s time to be honest about what’s most important to you.  I hope you will seek the Kingdom of God above all else.

Number five – It robs the church of the resources it needs. 
The fact is it takes money to run a church.  Excellent ministry requires excellent staff who need to be paid.  The church building has to be paid for and maintained.  Ministry to the needy requires funding.  Poor attendance leads to poor finances because people who skip usually do not give an offering.  When finances are down, the work of God suffers.

Everyone's situation varies, but--in general--you shouldn't miss more than 5 Sundays per year.  For most people, that should be plenty to account for illness, vacations, and the occasional special situation.  If you are missing more than 5 Sundays per year, you may need to re-evaluate your priorities and decide if your commitment to Christ and His Church are what they need to be.

If you are skipping church, you are helping to kill it.  Perhaps it’s time we look in the mirror and start making some changes.  Of course, I’m no expert and certainly don’t claim to know everything, but that’s the Truth as far as I can tell… 

Remember, God loves you and so do I!