Summary: An exposition of several texts as a “pastoral care intervention” message pointing out the problem of disunity in the church caused by individualism and calling those attending worship to reach out to those who do not attend.
Purpose: to be the Holy Spirit’s second witness calling God’s people in my care to take the first step and reach out to professing Christians that are not attending worship services.
Response: Individuals will raise their hands to indicate that they know at least one professing Christian that does not attend worship and that they will reach out to them.
Something is wrong when a man thinks he can be a Christian without the church. If a woman believes she can serve God and not be part of a local congregation, then something is off beam.
Yes, there can be extenuating circumstances. A bedfast shut-in cannot go to worship services. Nevertheless the church should come to her and minister to her in her home. A Christian imprisoned for his faith cannot participate in a local congregation. However, we should pray that there’s a church interceding for his release.
The problem is with individuals who consider participation in a local church an option. When a person believes he can follow Christ without walking with Christ’s disciples, he is unfortunately very mistaken. When one who professes to love God feels she doesn’t need to love God’s people, she is wrong (1 John 3:11-24).
What could cause this problem?
Why would someone strike out on his own and try to live without the church? Many do it because someone in the church has hurt them. Perhaps it was an overzealous member who falsely accused them of some sin. It might have been a few gossips and busy bodies who attacked their reputations. Maybe someone harshly criticized his or her work. Other Christians have actually spurned some.
Others leave the church because their expectations aren’t being met and they are disillusioned. The pastor’s sermons were too long or not deep enough. The music wasn’t what they liked. The church didn’t elect them to a position they wanted and so they quit coming. Perhaps the church asked them to give more time or money than they thought was reasonable. No matter what the individual cause may be, these people are dissatisfied and figure they don’t need the hassle of a church.
Some people who call themselves Christians never start participating in a local church. They feel they can get all they need from a radio or television program. Perhaps, they think they’re too busy or that they’re relationship with Christ is a personal thing and no body else’s business. Maybe, they were brought up to be independent and self-reliant. It might be that they don’t feel their clothes are “good enough” for church services. And then some folks think churches won’t welcome “sinners.”
What’s involved in this problem?
Fear is the underlying motive in most individuals who reject the church while claiming to follow Jesus. Some fear being wounded again. Others are afraid to change their expectations of what the church should be and how it should work. There are people who worry about appearing weak by depending on others. Some people are afraid of being rejected by God’s people because of the rebuffs they’ve experienced in society.
Faithful church members show fear too. Too many are afraid to reach out to those who claim to love God and yet avoid the church. Those in the church tend to ignore the wounds others have experienced because they are afraid of sharing the pain. Sometime we are worried about what our friends will think when they find out who all attends our church.
It’s too easy for those of us in the church to say, “It’s their fault. After all, we announce the services on the church sign. Anyone can come that wants to come. If they don’t show up, we don’t need them. We aren’t responsible for them.”
That’s the problem. It’s summed up in those two statements. “We don’t need them. We aren’t responsible for them.” Whether a person is in the church every time the doors open or if an individual chooses to live without a local congregation, if he thinks he doesn’t need others and is not responsible for them then he is part of the problem.
We all need each other. The New Testament is filled with commands relating to our relationships with one another (BULLETIN NSERT BELOW). Jesus said, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35). The apostle Paul wrote “Encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). We need each other in order to live by these guidelines.
What can be done about this problem?
We all need to see the church as God sees it. The local congregation is more than a collection of individual believers. God sees every Christian in our communities as part of a whole that “grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16). Look at the following descriptions of the church.