A friend of mine, teaching Sunday School, told (with tongue in cheek) how the Puritans dealt with absence from church. “Here is how they did things: Miss one Sunday and you get no meals on Monday; miss two Sundays and you get a whipping; miss three Sundays and you go to jail; miss four Sundays: no one ever missed four Sundays!”
It is good is it not that Puritans are not overseeing church attendance today. It is generally agreed that church attendance, after the C-19 pandemic, will never be the same. Streaming of services has been the most radical change, not to mention social distancing, sterile communion services, masks, no handshakes, no passing of the offering plates, plus other “new normals.”
However, the Word of God is unchangeable and there is still that admonition that we should not “forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is….” Those words were written to a first century Church that was suffering severely the pangs of persecution which, in a different realm, left exhaustion, fear, and death that was pandemic in its reach and life-changing in its impact upon individuals and upon the Church. But the Church then, and now, survived and is surviving and will survive.
You have to love what the late Vance Havner once said about a childhood experience he had as he visited a church: “It was a shabby church house, the preacher was plain, the organ wheezy and the music off-key. But there was something that reminded one of the Upper Room.”
There have been and are churches like that world-wide. Big churches, small ones; country churches, city churches; churches with every possible accruement one could imagine and churches with one door for an entrance and exit, no carpet, no padded pews, but churches where when people lifted their voices in musical praise to God the Father, small bumps were raised on people’s necks and when the preacher opened up the Word of God to deliver the burden God’s Spirit had laid upon him, whether educated or uneducated formally, you could almost hear the holy hush of God move through the building as worshippers were drawn into God’s presence so that, like Havner, when you left you knew you had heard from God’s Word through God’s man.
Believers of all ages have loved to be in attendance, in person, when local assemblies of His followers were meeting for praise, prayer, communion and fellowship in His Word. We love to be with brothers and sisters in Christ and we love to be around those of like precious faith. General Westmoreland was once reviewing a platoon of paratroopers in Vietnam. As he went down the line, he asked each of them a question: ‘How do you like jumping, son?’ ‘Love it, sir!’ was the first answer. ‘How do you like jumping?’ he asked the next. ‘The greatest experience in my life, sir!’ exclaimed the paratrooper. ‘How do you like jumping?’ he asked the third. ‘I hate it, sir.’ he replied. ‘Then why do you do it?’ asked Westmoreland. ‘Because I want to be around guys who love to jump.’ We not only love to “jump” into the Word, we love to be around people who love to! You can be blessed at home participating in whatever way you can via the internet, but nothing can replace the in person, face to face, worship in and through the assembly of the church.
Now, most of my posts are of a pretty serious nature, as is this one. I am writing this the day after the National Football Championship game was played about 12 minutes from our house, in downtown Indianapolis, at Lucas Oil Stadium. So, football in some way or another, has been on our minds both here and elsewhere, especially in Georgia and Alabama. Allow me to “lighten” things up for a change and share with you some football strategies as they pertain to local church gatherings:
Instant Replay: the preacher loses his notes and falls back on last week’s illustrations.
Sudden Death: What happens to the attention span of the congregation if the preacher goes “overtime.”
Trap: You’re called on to pray and are asleep.
End Run: Getting out of church quick, without speaking to any guest or fellow member.
Flex Defense: The ability to allow absolutely nothing said during the sermon to affect your life.
Halfback Option: The decision of 50% of the congregation not to return for the evening service.
Blitz: The rush to the restaurant following the closing prayer.
Quarterback Sneak: Church members quietly leaving during the invitation.
Draw Play: What many children do with the bulletin during worship.
Half-time: the period between Sunday School and worship when some choose to leave.
Benchwarmer: Those who do not sing, pray, work or apparently do anything but sit.
Backfield-in-motion: Making a trip to the back (restroom or water fountain) during the service.
Staying in the Pocket: What happens to a lot of money that should be given to the Lord’s work.
Two-minute Warning: The point at which you realize the sermon is about over and you begin to gather up all your belongings.
Hope you may have gotten a chuckle out of these, (copied, source unknown), but pray you will really never take His Church and the gathering together of His Body, locally in what we call “going to church,” lightly!