A. Let me begin with a few stories.
1. The story is told of three preachers who got together for coffee one day and found out that all of them faced the same problem with bat-infestations in their church buildings.
a. One of them sad, “I got mad and took a shotgun and fired at them. I missed the bats and it put a hole in the roof. I don’t suggest that approach.”
b. The second said, “I caught the bats in traps and drove them 50 miles away and released them. Unfortunately, they beat me back to the church building.”
c. The third one said, “I solved my bat problem. I simply baptized them and made them deacons. I haven’t seen them since.”
2. On another Sunday morning, two men were fishing and feeling pretty guilty for skipping church, especially since the fish weren’t biting.
a. One said to the other, “I guess I should have stayed home and gone to church.”
b. The other man replied, “Maybe so, but I couldn’t have gone to church anyway…my wife is sick in bed.”
3. During a very long church service, in the middle of a long-winded sermon, a small child was overheard whispering to his mother, “Mommy, are you sure this is the only way we can get to heaven?”
B. Today I want us to talk about being faithful in attendance.
1. I really should begin by commending you for being here today.
2. In some respects, I’m preaching to the choir, so to speak.
3. But as you will see, this lesson is really for all of us.
C. I really want to be frank today, but I don’t want to be negative.
1. I do believe we have a problem, and I think you will agree with me about that, but I think we can see it as an opportunity for positive action.
2. So, before we discuss positive solutions, let’s take a look at the numbers.
D. First of all, let me state that I’m thankful that we have an average attendance of about 200.
1. Many churches wish that they had that many people present on Sunday mornings.
2. So, that’s the upside. We have 200 of us who consistently gather for worship.
E. The downside, however, is that on average there are about 115 of our people missing.
1. Looking at our figures from the 4 weeks in September, we had a total of 87 family units who missed at least one Sunday.
2. On average we have 55 family units who miss our Sunday morning gathering every week.
3. 34 of the 87 family units that missed in September, missed all four Sundays. A number of those family units have not been with us for months, and some may be lost to us permanently.
4. 8 of the 87 family units missed 3 out of the 4 weeks.
5. 16 of the 87 missed 2 out of the 4 weeks.
6. And 29 of the 87 family units missed 1 out of the four weeks.
F. So, in summary, one third of those who missed during September missed only one week.
1. A little less than a third who missed in September missed 2 or 3 of the weeks.
2. And a little more than a third of those who missed in September missed all 4 weeks.
3. Overall, what this means is that we have a lot of missing going on.
G. I don’t want to spend much time trying to analyze all of the reasons that people may be missing so much.
1. Certainly there are some good and legitimate reasons why people might be missing from the gathering of the church (things like illness, travel, family complications or work might fall into this category).
2. And certainly there are some wrong or inappropriate reasons why people might be missing from the gathering of the church.
H. What I would like to remind us of today is the Scriptural and spiritual mandate for gathering with the church.
1. Our passage from Acts 2 gives us a beautiful snapshot of the experience of the early church and stands as a wonderful example for Christians for all times.
2. Look at the passage again: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
3. Exciting and wonderful things were happening in the church at the time.
4. No one needed to be coerced into attending the gathering of the church.
5. They all were devoted and filled with awe.
6. They all were concerned about each other and were serving each other.
7. They were meeting in their homes and sharing their faith, and the Lord was adding to their number every day.
8. It was indeed an exciting time. There was a lot of enthusiasm and momentum.
9. I wish we could bottle some of that, or put it in a pill and take it when we needed it. Amen!
I. Fortunately, or unfortunately, how ever you want to look at it, what was happening in the early days of the church was kind of a mountain top experience.
1. Everyone was experiencing a high, and everything was running smoothly.
2. But as we all know, life never continues on that high for very long.
3. Life isn’t lived on the mountain top, but on the plain or in the valley.
J. When we turn to the book of Hebrews, we get the picture of the church at a very different time.
1. Now the church is about 30 or 40 years old.
2. The persecution of Christians because of their faith has become the rule rather than the exception.
3. What we see now are Christians who are tired and struggling. Some have abandoned the faith altogether and others are close to that point.
4. Many are skipping the gathering of the church, and so the Hebrew writer sends them this message.
5. Look at Hebrews 10:32-36, “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”
6. And earlier in the same chapter, beginning at verse 19, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
K. Ultimately, going to church isn’t about punching the clock or paying your dues.
1. It’s about being in relationship with God and the family of God.
2. It’s about wanting to grow in Christ and be the best for His sake.
3. It’s about wanting to stay on track and have our batteries recharged.
4. And it’s about being here for others, to serve and encourage – spurring one another on toward love and good deeds.
L. Answering the question, “why should you go to church?”, is a little like answering the question, “why go to school?”
1. Or “why have supper with your family?”
2. Or “why go and visit grandma and grandpa?”
3. Can’t a person learn better on their own? Some can, at least for a while. If left to educate ourselves, without any assistance or encouragement, most of us would be illiterate.
a. School or schooling provides the structure, assistance and encouragement we need.
b. Likewise, the gathering of the church does the same.
4. Why eat together as a family? Can’t you eat more quickly by yourself? Isn’t it easier to grab something on the run?
a. Certainly, but eating together as a family is important for the rhythm of life and for the structure of the family.
b. Those few minutes at a meal provide intimacy, perspective and stability for our lives.
c. I know you can see the application for us spiritually whether we talk about the Lord’s Supper we share, or the other common meals we share.
5. And why do we go and visit grandma and grandpa?
a. Certainly because we love them and they love us.
b. But also because they need us and we need them, whether any of us will admit it.
c. Isn’t it the same with the church?
M. The Hebrew writer said, “Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.”
1. Attendance or lack of attendance really becomes a habit.
2. Certainly, good habits are good and bad habits are bad.
3. Notice that he didn’t say, “Let us not give up meeting together, unless…”
a. Unless…the preacher is weird and boring.
b. Unless…the song leader has a horrible voice and leads lousy songs.
c. Unless…you are not getting anything out of the worship.
d. Unless…somebody has hurt you or you are tired or busy.
4. I know you see where I’m going with this.
5. The command in Hebrews 10:25 doesn’t have any clauses or exceptions.
6. But it does tells us about the importance of encouragement in light of the Day that Christ Jesus will return.
N. I’d like us to conclude this lesson with two commitments.
1. I’m hoping that you will join with me and with others here this morning in making these two resolutions.
O. First, that each of us will make a commitment to be here when the church comes together.
1. I really appreciate the fact that so many of you are already doing this.
2. So many of you make a concerted effort to attend every gathering of the church.
3. Your commitment and consistency is truly an encouragement.
4. What I’m suggesting is that we approach this matter with the mindset that says, “I want to be there and that I will do my best to not allow anything from stopping me.”
5. That’s obviously very different from the mindset that says, “I’m not sure I want to be there, and if something else comes up, oh well, I’ll go next week.”
6. I like what Psalm 122:1 says, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’ ”
7. I realize that there are many things that effect the way we think about our experience with the church and that just coming together doesn’t solve all those things.
8. But I do know this, those things won’t be solved apart from the church.
9. And I know that when anyone isn’t here, then there is a part of us that is missing.
10. We are the body of Christ, and each one of us is a part of that body.
11. We need all the parts to be present for the body to function properly.
P. The other commitment that I am encouraging us to make today is to contact the missing.
1. Nothing will help to change our situation more than for us to reach out to those who are missing.
2. To let someone know that we missed them and to show concern that we hope everything is okay seems to be such an obvious gesture.
3. I’ve used this analogy before – If one of your kids didn’t show up for supper one night, you wouldn’t say, “I’m sure they are okay, but if they don’t show up for dinner tomorrow night or the night after that maybe I’ll look into it.”
4. That may not be a perfect analogy, but it begins to touch on how we should be in tune with each other and if any of us is missing then someone should notice.
5. How sad it is when no one notices we are missing, or if they notice, doesn’t take the time to check on us.
6. One of my sisters out west told me last week that they are looking for a new church. One of the reasons was because when they missed many Sundays during our grandmother’s illness and death, no one called to see what was happening.
7. Some of the people who have been missing from here for so long, may be too hurt or too far from the Lord to bring them back, and we must do a better job from keeping that from happening.
8. As you can see from the figures I used at the beginning of the lesson, there are far too many people who need contact every week for just a few people to be involved in contacting them.
9. That’s why I’m encouraging all of us to be resolved to be active in this expression of love.
10. I would suggest that you pick out a small number of people, perhaps those you feel closest to, and when they are missing, be sure to follow up with them.
Q. I believe with all my heart that these two commitments of faithfulness will make all the difference.
1. And I believe that all of us love the Lord and his people enough that we will follow through with these commitments.
2. Our God is so faithful and so powerful. May His faithfulness and power work in us even more!