A Simple Look At Church Attendance
Today, I hope you read this in a loving tone, and not an accusatory one... I believe the Lord's church is struggling with identity due to some misunderstandings about what God desires from His children... Please read, share, comment and don't shy away from discussion...
Read Hebrews 10:19-39
1) Hebrews 10:25 is one of the most misused, misrepresented pieces of Scripture in the history of Christianity. —> this is not hyperbole, it is fact… so many well-meaning preachers, teachers, and Christians have mistakenly leapt to the rescue of their ne’er do well delinquent friends and have shoved this verse into their face in an effort to guilt those people back to church… and then have had the audacity to go home and pat themselves on the back believing that would be the way Jesus would have operated! Honestly, the likelihood of that working has to be very close to zero point zero percent. So, how do we convey the message of Hebrews 10:25? By better understanding the context of the words “…not neglecting to meet together…” and actually reading the other verses in the section (verses 19-39) —> the context and verses surrounding that statement concerns strengthening your faith, not making sure that no one calls you to find out why you weren’t at church.
2) My second point of contention before we get to our major thoughts is that if you believe walking into a church building is what makes you a Christian or is what makes you a part of the church, we need to have a very long talk… The idea of the physical building making you a Christian or a member of the church is equal to me putting a cape on and declaring that I am Superman. Christianity is not a brain-dead, robot religion! You are not a Christian or a member of the church because you went to a specific geographic location… You are only a Christian because you have been obedient to what God has said to do —> The church is a result of Jesus teaching and commanding His disciples to live out what it meant to be a true follower and they desired to meet together and be together to try and live out the mission Christ had called them to do… Today it is a group of obedient Christians continuing to try and do the will of God, not just a building that is open 4 hours a week.- Another thing, if you claim that you do not need the church, I’m not sure how you survive this life. I would imagine there are people in your church family that are closer to you than perhaps some members of your biological family.
- Also, if you haven’t been faithful to the church because you believe it to be full of hypocrisy… sadly, you have determined and are declaring that Heaven will be empty and that we of all people are to be pitied the most… The church is NOT a museum for saints, but is instead a hospital for sinners… and until we stop using these 4 walls to hide behind, we cannot help those we were called to help.
- 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 —> At some point, as the church of our Lord, we must look into the eyes of our faithful and express our gratitude… The church is unconquerable because of the steadfastness and faith of these good people —> The Church needs you and is proud to have you!
- Acts 11:26 —> This is more than just an acknowledgement of what we are… this is a fulfillment of a promise of God (Isaiah 62:2-3). The name you wear is a divinely called, spoken name… Shouldn’t we all desire to be a part of something that special?
- Now that we have effectively established that the church needs you and you need the church, I would like to spend the remainder of our time answering the very serious dilemma that can be born out of a discussion like this one —> What are we to be doing as a unified, bonded body of God’s people?
To answer that, let’s look at the real questions that we need to answer —> The question of what will it hurt if I am not a member of the Lord’s church, what is the big deal, what does it matter to you, who cares? Spoken in a slightly different way it may sound like this: What happens when you remove the master story or grand narrative from someone’s life?
Richard Sennett, a sociologist at New York University and the London School of Economics, talks about the “corrosion of character” that comes when modern workers lack narrative meaning in their lives. Although many American workers today may be successful and affluent, their lives lack meaning because they are subject to the tension and uncertainty of what Sennett calls “short-termism”, which may include short-term contracts, flexible working arrangements, project based companies, and intermittent consulting work. For many such workers today, there is simply nothing “long term” anymore. The idea of a career withered on the vine long ago. Sennett notes that there is no fabric that can build trust since no one has long-term commitments or loyalties to anything.
As a way of illustrating this point, Sennett recalls an interview he conducted 25 years ago with Enrico, an Italian immigrant to New York, who worked as a custodian in an office complex for over 20 years. It was mundane work but on the basis of its expected continuity, Enrico was able to save enough to buy a house, planned for his pension and his old age; he became a settled member of the local Italian community and put his sons through college. Sennett comments that what struck him about Enrico and his generation was how “linear” time was in their lives: over time “he carved out a clear story for himself; his life thus made sense as a linear narrative.”
Fast forward 25 years; Sennett reconnects with the family. Finds that Rico, Enrico’s oldest son, has benefitted from the college education his father worked so hard to provide. Rico has become one of the top 5% wage earners in the country. But he is completely disillusioned. In 14 years he had moved his family four times. Although prosperous, he and his wife were completely disjointed from those around them.
Sennett listened as Rico explained his emotional turmoil. With no real friends, at work or in the neighborhood, Rico feared for his children’s lack of ethical discipline. The message being sent to his family by his work history was: ‘don’t commit yourself, don’t sacrifice, don’t trust.’ Rico wonders how he can instill virtues in his children when they don’t remotely see it modeled in his own life. Sennett comments, “What is missing between the polar opposites of drifting experience and static assertion is a narrative which could organize his conduct. His father has one; Rico does not.”
Sennett is not a Christian, at least as far as I can tell. But he points out what we lose when that grand narrative is missing, by not having a good story to settle into, a Master Story that makes sense of our individual stories.
Highlighted portion adapted from a lesson by Dr. Jason Bybee, pulpit minister at Mayfair Church of Christ
In Paul’s sermon from Acts 13, he makes it abundantly clear: there IS a Master Story and it most certainly is important, it does matter, and we should all care that you know it --- the Story of God who seeks to save us from our sins through His Son, Jesus Christ.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16 -
Back to our question: What happens when you remove this narrative structure from someone’s life?
We all need a Master Story in order for our lives to make sense. But left to our own devices, we shrink the dimensions of the stage and domesticate the drama. We accept a smaller story than the one we were created for.
This is where sin comes in: through sin, we have “lost the plot.” So the question becomes: Is there a bigger, better Master story than the small, sinful story we too often take on?
Paul answers, “Yes” and proceeds to tell that story at Antioch in Acts 13. This Master Story is told in the Bible and it is God’s Story. The chief actor is God Himself!
This sermon in Acts 13 —> Paul’s one shot to teach truth and reach “religious” people and “lost” people at the same time —> indicates there is a Master Story that we are to be about as God’s children and as Christ’s bride…THIS is why you need the church and the church needs you! (John 3:16) You need the gospel more than you could ever imagine and the church needs you to be a worker in spreading that saving message to a lost and dying world:
The Master Story is the Story of Jesus.
Paul says that God’s Master Story has been fulfilled in Jesus. Fulfill – to bring something to its intended goal; to fill full of meaning. Three points we can make here:
1) The Gospel is the fulfillment of a plan (Acts 13:16-27)
Let’s not forget that this plan began with the choice of God. He made a choice to create the world in the first place; He made a choice in the Garden to put His salvation plan into effect; as Paul mentions in v17, this plan included the selection of Abraham. God chose to call Israel as His people.
This salvation plan continues to unfold throughout Israel’s history. Paul sees Jesus as the ultimate conclusion to Israel’s history. V26, “Children of Abraham and God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.”
This salvation plan is God’s intentional response to sin. God has had a purposeful plan since the beginning to reconcile His people back to Himself.
2) This plan was fulfilled in a person (Acts 13:23-31)
God’s salvation plan fixates on Jesus, the Savior. He is the pivotal figure in the narrative, the her of the Story. The whole story turns on the dramatic events of his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.
This constitutes the message of salvation.
V28 – Death sentence
V29 – Burial
V30 – Resurrection
V31 – Appeared to his witnesses
V38-39 – Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.
God’s salvation plan is executed through Jesus. It’s all about Him…
3) This plan was the fulfillment of a promise (Acts 13:32-33)
Paul sums up the gospel as the good news of what God promised (v32). The promises God made have been fulfilled through the work of Jesus.
True to His character God is a promise-keeping God. The promises to Abraham, David, Israel made through the prophets….have all been kept.
God has kept every promise He has ever made.
So what? What does this all mean for me and you right now?
It means we are desperately needed to live in and live out verses 38 and 39 of Acts 13… We are to learn and then teach others that (1) Through Him [Christ] (2) Everyone (3) Everything
Through Christ, everyone can be forgiven of everything —> You can be free of all the things that have weighed you down and become a part of a family that is striving alongside you to simply be the children of God living in and living out the good news of Jesus Christ.