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31 December 2007

Sunday Evenings

One of these days I may experiment with this thing I've heard of, called a "short blog post," just to see if more people read.

But on to your regularly-scheduled programming...

Our church fellowship has Sunday evening services. These services are, quite frankly, never very well-attended when contrasted with our Sunday morning services. That really used to bother me, but since I've begun to assume the best about people, and continually attempt to do so, it doesn't get to me like it used to; I don't leap to conclusions about the spiritual life or health of people simply because of their lack of attendance at a scheduled service (in the same way that I shouldn't draw conclusions when someone doesn't sing at church). The fact that we schedule a service doesn't for a moment mean that all "committed Christians" are required to attend it.

As the Worship Pastor at my church fellowship, I am not tasked with, nor do I feel responsible for, providing entertainment for the people who are there. It's not my job to cater to the stylistic musical tastes of a particular demographic (although from the outside it may all seem distilled down to that). Rather, it is my task to teach our people what it means to worship, and to provide one particular avenue -- music -- for them to express the overflow of their worship in our corporate meetings.

I can't force someone to worship; that doesn't even make sense. I can't create an "atmosphere of worship" -- people should be bringing that bit of atmosphere with them. But I'll guarantee you that I can distract people from worship if my team and I do not always strive for excellence.

Once again (and I can't say this enough), I cannot, should not, and do not make any assumptions at all about someone's life or spiritual state simply because they do not attend a particular service. There are innumerable justifiable situations and reasons that may account for this.

Have you ever noticed, though, that the demeanor of the congregation is impacted by a low attendance (relative to a Sunday morning attendance)? Do you think that this presents a distraction from the corporate worship "atmosphere"? If people are taking their worship to church with them, it shouldn't, should it? What about the elements of encouragement and edification?

I don't seek "for" or "against" arguments about Sunday evening services. I can tell you, though, that I do wish the services were better-attended.


Leroy said...

Going to church just for the sake of going (i.e., the doors are open) is not a good reason to go to church. Going to church is to be part of a corporate worship; worship offered to God and Jesus. Not to get our "warm, fuzzy feeling" for the week. It's not about us. We should WANT to worship because of our relationship with Jesus.

I believe there are often good excuses to not attend church...sick, out of town, etc. But when you have experienced what God can do and has done in your life, why wouldn't you want to be there to publically thank Him and glorify Him? To serve Him and share with others what He has done for you?

Jan Owen said...

I think that although we obviously can worship alone or in small groups and should, one thing I've noticed is that worshiping TOGETHER is powerful in a different way than worshiping alone. I think this is part of what I see as a worship leader. While we do not depend on one another to worship, our worship as believers encompasses not only our relationship with God but with our family in Christ as well. We encourage one another and minister to one another by the gift of our presence. We do not exist as believers in a vacuum or to quote John Donne, "no man is an island". A scripture I am reminded of is Romans 1:11-12, "For I long to visit you so I can share a spiritual blessing with you that will help you grow strong in the Lord. I'm eager to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. In this way, each of us will be a blessing to the other." Additionally, we see throughout scripture the power of a united church focused on worshiping God together - there is a supernatural power that is unleashed when we come together to do this. Along with the very simple reality that it is meaningful to know that my friends took the time to join me in worship, it is simply powerful to be joined together in worship and praise and prayer. My two cents as a leader of worship! I need my church family and am deeply touched when we worship TOGETHER.

Preston N said...

I think part of your question here relates back to who is it thats attending church? Charles Finney once quoted as saying there are three types of professing Christians. The first is the person who professes to be a Christian so that their reputation will not be marred in the community and that people will think he or she is a "godly" or "good" person. This way by attending church he or she has lessened or satiated their conscience for a short period of time. In other words, they don't feel so bad about themselves.

The second type of professing Christian is the person who is strictly afraid of going to Hell and attends church strictly on the basis that they do not want to spend eternity in hell. This may sound like a legitimate reason for attending church, but if you get down to it this person is still selfish as he or she is merely interested in saving their own skin and has really no sincere love of God.

The third type of professing Christian is the one who truly and sincerely loves God and is living in sweet submission to the Savior. This person is there to truly know, love, and worship God.

Why do I mention all this as it relates to this subject matter? For one I think this shows us why their is always such a huge difference in attendance in Sunday mornings services. For the most part I think their are a good number of people that fall into Finney's category 1 & 2 on Sunday mornings, so thus the large difference in attendance. I've been reading Leonard Ravenhill lately and he says if you want to see who the saints are in your church, announce on Sunday morning your having a prayer meeting that evening for the lost sinners in your city and see if you get the same number of attendees as you had in the morning service as you do for the prayer service. He says don't be surprised if your disappointed in the variance in attendance. He states true followers of Christ will never pass up an opportunity to prayer for the sinners of the world.

Dean Lusk said...

I feel like the general categories Preston mentioned are scarily accurate. I hesitate to try to "plug people in" where those are concerned, although there's a huge temptation to do so.

Category number two is worth a whole book in itself.

Jesus said that we would know people by the fruits that their lives produce. That is ultimately the only way we can know that someone is sincere in what they profess.

It's wrong to assign "guilt" to the people who don't return for an evening service at a typical church fellowship. While it is incumbent upon church leaders to recognize and address alarming trends like this (which is sadly rarely done in many fellowships), our grouping of specific people into categories is similar to praying the Pharisee's prayer: "Thank you that I am not like that person," because that's the angle from which we typically will approach it.

But the danger in not recognizing that people fall into these general categories is that it can lead us to the mindset that says, "Hey, it's okay -- people can only be committed to a certain level of following Christ, so it's okay that they only 'worship' for an hour each week."

This is one reason that we are often admonished in the Scriptures to care for our brothers and sisters in Christ first. Look at the people who surround us! Genuinely love them and care about them! There's a good possibility that spotty church attendance, for instance, is not actually the problem, but it's only a symptom of something deeper.

It's our responsibility to personally get to know people and their situations; to find out how we can minister to them. How can we be the hands and feet of Christ to them? It's not our resonsibility to write them off as unspiritual.

And I'm not at all suggesting that's what Preston meant! It isn't! I'm just saying that, given those categories (which, again, I feel are accurate), it's quite easy to shake our heads in disgust at the sad situation, never doing a thing about it.

Preston N said...

Indeed it was not the intent of my post to categorize folks into strict categories or to be Pharisaical in anyway. Finney mentions these types of "professing" Christians to provide instructions on how to deal with situations like these and how to awaken the church to revival.

I think were not at all wrong in making the observation that Dean made, as a matter of fact I think its only our conscience that tips us off that something is not quite right in our observations (or even the Holy Spirit for that matter). Again, I am not at all saying we gauge peoples level of holiness or desire for God strictly on the basis of church attendance levels. Again, many factors can play into all of this including the depth and content of the pastor(s) who are preaching.

However, what I will say is that in today's churches it seems there is a lack of genuineness by many a church attendees. Why do I say this? In my opinion the church is no longer making an impact on our culture, but its the other way around. Why is it our churches are jammed packed full every Sunday morning (ie mega-churches), but yet the level of immorality and depravity in our society and culture has never been worse. In Madison alone I can't swing a dead cat without hitting a church of some sort (please don't call Peta). One would tend to think with as many people claiming to be Christians and with as many churches on every corner one should see the level of immorality taper off or at least sharply decline - but yet its just the opposite. So therefore I am only to assume then that we must have more of category 1 & 2 "Christians" and thus the lack of real change within our society or culture. Instead I see us becoming more of a pagan like culture than a Christ-like culture. If any one can explain this phenomena any better, I would be open for comment, but for me this is how I come to this conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Christy says: On the other hand, there are those who do attend everything so that they can say "I go whenever the doors are open". That doesn't necessarily mean they are in a good, strong relationship with the Savior, it could just be because they want to show up and show off.

I used to be one who felt strongly that I shouldn't miss an event or service. Now, however, I realize that my relationship with the Lord is personal. I don't have to prove anything by my attendance; I only have to prove by my lifestyle. That might sound contradictory, but I'm convinced it isn't. I no longer feel pressured to serve in multiple areas, therefore I no longer feel burnt out, therefore I can now serve w/ a cheerful heart rather than out of obligation. The heart is what God looks at. He is the One I will answer to for my life.

A little side note to Tony: You really have me paranoid about my grammar/punctuation now more than ever. Thanks a lot, buddy!

Tony M said...

To Christy: shouldn't that be "grammar and punctuation"? :) Kidding!

I've enjoyed reading these comments; sorry I don't have much to add at this point, other than perhaps "I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord.'" (Psalm 122:1)

Lamarr said...

Wow; I think Tony's last comment convicted me more than any other :) I guess I should say God's last comment...

However, I also have to say in the 'busyness' of today's society, we also have to be careful about the 'obligation' of attending. Personally for me, the last Sunday of last year we were worn out from our travels to visit everyone we possibly could in our family and clean up the house and put away presents and begin to clean up after Christmas, and as much as I would have loved to worship myself, the kids weren't up to it in that corporate environment. So, instead, we sat together as a family and worshipped, read and enjoyed each other. I know there's many other days of the week that we 'could' do that, but it was nice to take the time on that last Sunday of the year and bond as a family. Something that I wish the church would help us to be able to do more often.

Lamarr said...

ok, not that it's the church's responsibility to help us do that, but sometimes I feel like my 'obligations' at the church pull me away from my family, something that I personally have to keep an eye on, no one else's responsibility but mine...

Tony M said...

Yeah, obligation, gladness. The two often don't go together - how I hate when I get "done" with a church service and everyone's in a bad mood (it's happened). Or some are in a bad mood and those not in a bad mood allow their good mood to be spoiled by those in a bad mood.

How much nicer when we're glad to go, to have gone, and (in between) to be glad to be in the house of the Lord. How much nicer to take that gladness with us, out of the Lord's house. (Then again, we're, each and every one, the temple of the Lord now, right? So that gladness should be a constant thing anyway, but that's a different point altogether.)

That weekly (or more frequent) assembling of ourselves helps to (or should help to) rejuvenate ourselves, to renew our joy, our gladness. And our strength ("the joy of the Lord is my strength" - I once heard a Christian radio host put it this way: when we allow Satan to get our joy, we allow Satan to get our strength - how different a perspective when looked at this way).

Ok, gotta go...

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