As I get older there are certain memories that become sweeter and sweeter. As I consider or are reminded of them I often try to almost relive or submerse myself in the memory. Mostly, because that time is gone or maybe the person involved is gone but the fondness of those memories grows as I age and as I begin to notice time is really passing quicker than I would like. I can almost drift back to when I was 8 or 9 and helping my Grandfather with projects around His church. I can see Him walking through the halls, fixing doors, working on the HVAC, and tending to the audio system. One of these fond memories I can remember is watching Him work in the sanctuary by replacing hymnals in the pew pockets and changing the attendance and offering board that hung near the pulpit.
Fast forward to today and I wonder where did that display of records begin. Why would anyone think that putting last week’s attendance and offering on display, where the entire congregation can stare at it all service, would be a good idea? I am sure that whomever started this was probably thinking it would be an encouragement to a small body. In that they could begin to see the attendance grow and the correlating offering which would bring about the possibility of greater ministry. But for some of those smaller bodies, as was my Grandfathers near the end of His life, I can only imagine that it must also have had the opposite effect to see that 12 people attended last Sunday and gave a total of fifty-eight dollars. Especially for those bodies that once were thriving with young families and had ministries that were reaching out to their community. I fear that this “tradition” of counting those in attendance can also leads us into other tendencies which can be somewhat Pharisaical and legalistic.
It is very easy for us to sit in our pews or chairs on Sunday morning and take stock of who is there and who is not. Now armed with this information the question becomes what should we do with this knowledge that Mr. and Mrs. Absentee and their kids have been out two weeks in a row. Hopefully this information will be used correctly and lead us to call on the Absentees to ensure that they are doing okay and if not to determine if we can serve them in some way. I believe a call with the right heart would leave most people feeling loved and thankful that someone noticed and cared enough to inquire. I fear though that the most common reaction to Mr.and Mrs. Absentee is to assume that they are off gallivanting around and are just blowing off church as it is just another activity in their busy life. That the family is somewhat undependable and truthfully not to serious about their faith. With this thought in mind I think we all, if being honest, can think of a family that matches what we would consider as matching that description. They would rather be at the beach, the fair, the mountains, camping, hunting, biking, and almost anything else because they deserve that trip or that activity so that they can blow off steam from the stress of the week. But there it is; I just proved my own point. We can very easily slide into Matthew 23:25 where Jesus condemns the pharisees for cleaning the outside of the cup and leaving the inside filthy. Meaning maybe we begin to judge others actions based upon a religious checklist of items that is based on external actions rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to discern exactly where the heart is at.
At this point you are probably confused about what side of the fence I am actually standing on, so let me be very clear!! That board near the pulpit that is in so many churches whether physically or just in practice is just a way to foster the “Ole’ Believer Meter”. This idea that one’s attendance is a reflection upon not only the state of your walk but also the state of your home. The “every weekers” tend to look down upon those that miss as though they are not living up to their potential or are simply just not putting out the effort that a “Good Believer” should. And to be totally honest I am still trying to figure out where that line of demarcation is…is it 40 Sundays a year is a good believer and 39 is bad? Or maybe 48/47 is the line?
Well let me tell you why I bring this up, its because I love my church. I love my elders, my fellow brothers & sisters in Christ who also call it home, I love our worship, & our men. Truthfully I love the fact that we tend to sit in the same place and I know my pew will be open when I arrive cause to be honest I really like sitting there. It is out of that same love however, that I also bring it up to cause the body to consider it’s actions, words, and judgments. I ask the body to review the life, the fruit and the walk of those before the meter is used. Don’t get me wrong church attendance matters!!! It is the place to worship, fellowship, receive truth and correction, and to be encouraged. I would also venture to say that if you are reading this and feel I am finally giving you the license to no longer feel guilty about being out you might want to review your motive and heart behind your attendance.
I know this is long, but stay with me one more paragraph so that I can explain myself fully. My children are in the busiest time of their lives while in my home, which is one of the reasons we homeschool, so that we can spend a lot of intentional time studying the Bible. We do topical studies, book studies, season of life studies, we integrate it into their curriculum and we do them as a group and separately with each child. I even meet weekly with my daughter’s boyfriend to make sure he is in the Word and on a right path so that if that relationship continues he will be ready one day to take over some of my roles. In the past week my wife and I have met with couples, counseled parents, carried furniture to help a family in need, all in front of or directly involving our children. So, how does that impact my church attendance; it doesn’t! I still long to be with my church family every Sunday but if I can’t please know that I am still the same passionate believer I have always been. Be confident that I am not failing on my duties as a believer but I am actually doing what we are called to do. We are actually doing what all of the sermons we have attended were teaching us to be and that is to be a missionary for Christ. So the next time you see me return after I miss a Sunday because one of my daughters or my son is playing in a tournament or we are visiting family, try to think of it as if I have returned from a missionary journey cause indeed we have. Embrace us as ones that are weary cause we were in the world fighting for the Gospel, rather than sarcastically re-introducing yourself and I will do the same. Please don’t take this harshly, just be aware…I am the pastor in my home, I am a humble servant of Christ trying to be more and more like Him everyday, I am a serious missionary to a world that does not know the great I AM!
I am Tyler, a husband, a father, a friend, a teacher, a volleyball missionary, a soccer missionary, a baseball coach & missionary. I am trying to live my life to glorify the Father, honor my wife, and raise Godly children…if you have doubts come ask and we can have a great time of fellowship and conversation.