Monday, August 19, 2013

Flabby in Worship? Wow.

Posted by Hannah at 8:27 AM

I grew up in a household that you knew you would be going to church each and every Sunday.  Although compared to what seems to be popular today?  No doubt some would have felt my parents had their roles reversed.  My father was a hugely popular Sunday School teacher, and my mother was involved within the governing portions of the church and sang in choir.  Yes, back in the 1960’s and before ‘women’ were allowed governing positions in some churches.  They were both extremely good at what they did as well.

Are You a Part-Time Churchgoer? You May Be Surprised. Speaks about a fiction couple that serves their church by the husband being a deacon, and she helps the children’s ministry.  They have a small growing family, and the author lists out of 52 Sunday’s how many they miss.  The author also lists the reasons they miss church – including sickness.   Then ends by saying people need to be reminded WHY we are called to worship, but reminds the audience its not because he wants you to feel guilt.

I felt it was rather swallow myself.  People gather together all over this world inside and outside the church walls to do worship together.  Making sure the church people see them there each week lest they be called ‘flabby’ is for appearance only.

Egyptian Mourns Outside of Bombed Church
In some areas of the world – like Egypt right now  - Christians must worship in different ways because their church just burned down.  It dangerous to take their family outside their homes, because they maybe killed. The picture is  man worshipping in Egypt after his church was burned down.  Flabby is not the first word that comes to mind!

Then you have those families in which they are dealing with critically ill, or disabled individuals.  They worship at home with family, because its impossible at times to get to church.

Yes, you could EVEN decide to go out of town to have some family time alone.  I guess what the author doesn’t realize is the fictional family is capable of doing worship OUTSIDE the church walls, and gather together to do so many times…even on different days besides Sunday.  Its rather shallow to me to point out you must be in church to worship so we can see you lest we label you a part time church goer, and we need to write an article to remind you WHY you must worship.

We as a family did worship at home as well, and I remember in particular is the Advent Wreath.  We had other family worship traditions, but the Advent Wreath is something that sticks out on my mind during our family dinnertime.  Dinnertime was Worship time in our family.

When the year was starting to wind up to summer vacation?  Our church each and every year would remind us NOT to forget about the church.  The attendance normally dropped, because families were doing vacations and other things.

My family was no different.  We would go to church during the summer, but we also had ‘family’ things we did during this time as well.  We found creative ways of doing worship during those periods, and we gather together to do just that.

Why did we miss church?

Our family would normally go camping.  My brother and I got to see all kinds of places when we were growing up.  Camping was cheap, and neighbors shared their camping equipment.   If it wasn’t for camping we would have NOT been able to see Yellowstone National Park, and other awesome locations. 

West Thumb, Yellowstone Lake
We still laugh about the one night we had a major rain storm. My sleeping bag/air mattress was near the entrance of the tent , and it was running joke that I could sleep through a war.  So NO I don’t remember much about the storm.  In the morning, Dad got up to get out of the tent…stepped on my air mattress/sleeping bad, and all this water came RUSHING onto his socks.  That morning was slept at the camp site’s laundry room pumping quarters into the dryer to dry out the sleeping bags.

My father traveled a lot for his job, and during the summer months it was easier for mother to place us in the car to drive to where my father was working.  He would be gone for weeks at a time for these trips.  His employer put him up at a hotel, and he was given money for food.  We shared the room he got for work, and ate up some of his food allowance during these trips.

Since he was gone so much during the year it was a time we wouldn’t miss school, and we would have more time with him.  Mother always made sure it was an educational trip as well.  We learned the history of each location we went too.  One trip in particular I remember was the hometown of George Washington Carver’s.  He is known as the original ‘peanut’ guy, and he did much more than invent peanut butter!

Also during the summertime, my parents would send my brother and I to our relatives.  It normally started with my parents loading us UP in the car, and driving 1/2 way down to met up with the grandparents in some different location each year.  We would do some visiting there, and then the grandparents would take us the rest of the way to their homes.  The reverse would happen when it was time to go home.

I think my parents used this time to get to know each other again, and spend some quality ‘alone’ time without the kids around.  Can’t blame them THERE!  I honestly couldn’t tell you about their church attendance then, because I wasn’t there.  If I were guessing?  They went!

So during these 3 months during the year our Church Attendance was ‘light’, but we always returned to our regularly scheduled program during the Fall!  During these family times YES we did worship, but not for the world to see because we were sitting in our pews.

Times have changed, and so has the family.  There are different reasons or circumstances that families miss church. 

Recent statistics show that an increasing number of evangelicals who are firm in their faith are flabby in their practice of actually gathering with their brothers and sisters in worship. It’s the part-time syndrome, and it can sneak up on any of us.

Now, to be fair the author did attempt to let you know that people shouldn’t be ‘guilted’ into going to church, because that would miss the point of the purpose of being there.  So, you have to wonder what the purpose was of the above, and the list of missed Sunday’s.  It showed just the opposite, because he felt they needed to be reminded about the PURPOSE of worship.

As I mentioned above my parents would have us gather at home – on vacation or not – to do worship.  The four of us were a gathering of brothers and sisters.  Sure, we were not in the church building that our family dedicated more time to than just Sundays.  We were gathering in worship though, and people do this all the time OUTSIDE the church.  So, no offense but they seem a bit flabby in their grace and understanding of what this means.

Jesus didn’t have people ‘meet’ in a church building, and he preached his teachings in all kinds of different locations.  After his death, once again a gathering of believers did not take place in a church building. 

There are all kinds of people in the present day that have no church to go to, or have to meet in secret.  They are able to gather together as brother and sisters in worship as well.

The formal and the non formal are both acceptable.  They are both God honoring.  One is not more flabby than the other.  There are ALL kinds of ways to gather together.  I find the article has a bit of manipulative spin to it.

The best way to respond is not with guilt or with a false grace, but with the reminder of the purpose of worship. You aren’t there to fill up at the gas station (after all, you can get some sort of spiritual sustenance by reading or listening to your preacher’s podcasts apart from the body of Christ). This is a distorted view of the purpose of gathering.
The author of Hebrews clues us in. Being with your brothers and sisters is where you are able to stir one another up to love and good deeds. It’s the place where the confession of hope is celebrated and put before you and where you are urged to cling to it tightly.
It’s not just the content you receive every week that is so formative; it’s the act of being together and making the Lord’s family your priority. It’s similar to a family that gathers every evening for a meal. The value is not in the specifics of your conversation, but the very act of demonstrating your love for each other.
We don’t go to church because of guilt. We are the church because of grace.
That’s what Geoff and Christine, along with you and I, need to remember.

I’m sorry but this person as a ‘distorted’ view of a Church goer.  Formal gatherings seem to be counted more heavily in his view than other types of circumstances.  Formal gatherings at church isn’t the only TRUE way of showing that the Lord is your families' priority.   Missing church at times, or doing more informal ways – like it has to be done in SO many other parts of the world – doesn’t mean they do NOT cling to their faith tightly.

I would ask this author to acknowledge that people in his story demonstrate their love for the church, their family, and their dedication to the Lord by not only church attendance (part time or not).  They spend time on your ministries within the church, and no doubt they also have a form of family worship.  They GET the purpose of WORSHIP here!

Taking time as a family to do life a little different from time to time doesn’t mean their dedication has swayed.  It doesn’t show they can’t demonstrate their love for one another.  You are using GUILT when you list the number of Sunday’s they miss, and call them a Part Time Church goer in your presentation.  It is a checklist for you – be honest!

In my childhood our time together was a blessing that God granted us.  Our missed church attendance was filled with other things at times, but we still gathered together for worship in other ways.  Our dedication to our church was always present, and honored.  It didn’t disappear just because someone wants to keep a checklist over our missed Sundays, and our reasons for doing so. 

The best way to respond is not with guilt or with a false grace, but with the reminder of the purpose of worship.

Pleasssse!  Most dedicated Christians know what the purpose of worship is.  Do you seriously think that Geoff and Christine in your story do not understand this concept?  If so, why are they part of your Church board, or ministries that teach children?  They were asked to do those things because DO UNDERSTAND this!

When you hint that going to church is the most important :  act of being together and making the Lord’s family your priority?  You seem to be hinting that a family isn’t capable of doing so outside your walls.  How they have been brought down to PART SIDE believers, Dedicators, and Worshipers.  Not so.

So Yeah.  You pretty much laid on the guilt, and false grace.  There is a life of worship outside the church walls, and its been done for centuries.  Hardly Flabby.

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Anonymous said...

The idea of formal worship being a time of fellowship is very academic to me, because hardly anyone in my former church would even deign to return my greeting. At the same church, my friend was excommunicated because she separated from her abusive husband, while he remained a member in good standing.

It has been a year since I attended church, and I am still too traumatized to think of looking for another church.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that the author of post you refer actually counted being a guest preacher at another church as missing church. How pharisaical can you get?

Hannah on 9:24 AM said...

Anonymous 1: I can understand your position. There are plenty of people that don't agree with how certain churches 'run' things, and don't agree on their definition of 'biblical' either. Some places of worship are more friendly than others. THAT's for sure! Your friend doesn't need a fellowship that you speak of, and its hurtful that they would excommunicate her. In time I pray she sees the favor they did her. Their act says things about 'them', and not her! They can never justified that no matter how hard they try. I do hope she has found a support system to stand by her, and you as well!

Hannah on 9:30 AM said...

Anonymous 2: I thought they mentioned when their pastor was out of town they didn't care for the 'guest' preacher. and so choose not to go for that reason.

If they see no fruit in the guest preacher? There are other ways of worshiping, and they seem to overlook that. Their 'appearance' at church still doesn't count more because they have an attendance policy to acknowledge the PT attenders. Their presence seems to show they understand the concept of worship, and you aren't able to do this any other way - I guess due to their need for visual attendance. I would love to see where they find that in the bible!

Yes, it is rather odd isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1, I've been there, too! When I finally realized it could not possibly be coincidence that folks were turning their backs the same time I was trying to make eye contact and extend a greeting, I got so embarrassed about being "invisible" I can't make myself go to a regular church service, no matter how much people try to guilt/shame me into going.
Since then, I've even had people (not close to me) invite me, but knowing that the visit would more likely be painful and stressful instead of restful and upbuilding, I cannot find the motivation to go.

Great post, Helen! The only thing I'd disagree with is your statement that the writer is "a little" manipulative. I'd say the writer is laying it on thick--and then trying to convince us he isn't by telling us to not "go to church" out of guilt. I conclude he on some level realized he was taking readers on a major guilt trip, so he had to put that denial in there to sound good.

As the post writer mentioned, we ARE the church. I ask: since that is so, how can we go TO church? Do we go to ourselves? Contrast the writer's statement with Jesus' statement: "Where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them." Church is the English translation of the Greek "ekklesia," which simply means a gathering together. Jesus said 2-3 gathered together count as a gathering, or "church."

I think a large part of the problem is that we fail to see the big picture. "The church" is not a specific group of people that gathers at a particular building. The actual church--the bride of Christ--is those who are joint heirs with Christ from around the entire world, so NO ONE currently gathers with the entire church or bride of Christ.

But the real danger with that type of guilt trip is the hidden agenda. Since most modern day church services have only a few people telling others what they claim they heard from God, the real point of "going to church" is to receive influence--even dictation--from the leaders. As many as 70% of adults have little to no function in their congregations on Sundays other than as "ears." (Assuming that out of 100 adults, 2 are pastors, 20 are Sunday School teachers, and 8 in music/praise band.) The point for attendance becomes receiver/follower for the majority of Christians and doer/influencer for a minority of "church" goers. Fellowship, ie: deep and genuine one-on-one interaction, that cares about each other, encourages one another and builds one another up is mostly absent, even though fellowship is the real reason for getting together. All of us can worship and praise God on our own. When fellowship is missing, when only a select few are "important," that is when people stop going to the corporate meetings.

Instead of guilting people to "go to church," the writer should have been encouraging fellowship and genuine caring for others. It is the lack of warmth, love and caring from others that is giving so many folks a good reason not to "go to church."


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