Good morning friends! I hope your week is going well. I look forward to the day we can gather on Wednesday evenings so we don't have to wait seven days before we can see each other again!
Continuing what I started last week, a seven-week series on "Assumptions Pastors Can't Make in a Post-Christian Culture," we come to assumption #2 today. These assumptions were written by Karl Vaters and published in a December 2017 issue of Christianity Today. Assumption #1 had to do with Biblical Literacy, meaning we can no longer assume people, even church members, have any significant familiarity with the basic stories or message of the Bible.
Assumption #2 - Frequent Attendance
The author says, "Consistent, committed attenders use to go to church three times a week. Now, according to experts like Thom Rainer, it's approximately three times a month. In some places, twice a month is considered the new normal.
Attending worship should be the most normal, basic instinctive, delightful habit for a redeemed believer. Surely this is what the psalmist meant when he said, "I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord.'" Once upon a time many years ago a church dismissed a talented program staff member because he was not a nice person. He was very gifted in his field but was extremely rude and discourteous far too much of the time. As someone said later, "Church personnel should not have to be told to be nice." Indeed! Nor should we have to be told to attend church consistently. It should be a very natural, even intense desire for redeemed sinners.
The author continues, "This has profound implications for the way we do everything in a church, from the strength of our relationships, to the amount of time and money people give, to what they expect of their pastoral staff. For instance, when I prepare a sermon series, I have to assume that most people will miss several of the sermons, so each message needs to be more self-contained..and churches need a larger pool of volunteers..because they are more likely to serve in a rotation instead of showing up every week."
When I joined the staff of the Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church in 1980, the Christian Education committee recruited Sunday School teachers to serve for three consecutive years, including summers. By the time I left my former church three years ago, we were doing well to find Sunday School teachers who would serve for 9 months. Even then their travel schedules meant they would miss 25-50% of those 39 Sundays. The result was a loss of continuity in the classroom, a need for more volunteers, and unfortunate disruption for the class.
Much of our travel is optional. Many of our activities that cause us to miss church are also optional. While we may bask in our freedom and wealth we should also pause to consider the effect it has upon our church. And we should ask ourselves, "If everyone imitated my example, how would it affect my church?" And most fundamentally, how does it affect my family and me spiritually?