DISCLAIMER: I picked my blog title in an attempt to stir your interest. We’re not rushing to your house like police officers responding to a 911 call. In fact, we might not come to your house at all. You may get a call, a letter, an email, or conversation in Food Lion!
It’s no surprise, pastors want their church members to attend church gatherings. What’s not always obvious is why pastors want their members to attend. Like everything in life, there are competing motivations that drive church leaders. Some motivations are flat out bad; please come so I’ll feel successful, liked, or appreciated. But there’s at least one solid motivation that should drive a pastor’s desire for faithful attendance from church members; namely, spiritual health.
Let’s get something on the table before we go any further. One of a pastor’s primary responsibilities is to watch over souls. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Hebrews 13:17). Watching over souls can be touchy business. It requires a leader to look deep into an individuals life, consider his or her fruit, encourage and cultivate areas of growth, and with humility and prayer consider any spiritual weakness or sickness that might be present. And it’s not an optional part of a pastor’s job. “For they are keeping watch…as those who will have to give an account.” That means that every pastor at Union View will stand before God and give an account for how we watched over your soul. And that brings us back to church attendance.
The reason your church leaders care about church participation is because what spotty church attendance might point to. A lack of faithful church participation is a possible symptom of a deeper, spiritual problem. Here are two examples of what failing to make consistent church participation a priority may be the result of.
- You’re struggling with loving God. Doesn’t that sound judgmental! I mean, how dare I question your love for God on the basis of how often you attend a church gathering. But I think that’s one of the points made in Hebrews 10:19 – 25. One reason we don’t neglect meeting together is because we are holding firm to our confession of hope, i.e., Christ. So if you’re neglecting the assembly of the church, a pastor has to ask if you are firmly grasping the hope and love of Christ.
- You’re struggling with loving your brothers and sisters. Another judgmental thought, right? But think about it, the church is a body! We need each other. I need you and you need me, the way my body needs my arms and legs. If I don’t make participation in the body a priority, it’s the equivalent of saying, “I know you need me, but there’s something else that takes precedence in my life right now.”
There are so many other spiritual issues that can lead to inconsistent, spotty church involvement. The point of these two examples is to show you how serious the issue may be. Loving God and people are huge in Christianity. If there’s a chance you might be struggling with something on this level and I do nothing to check it out, there’s something seriously wrong with my leadership.
I do want you to take special notice of the bold, italicized words above: ‘might’, ‘possible’, and ‘may’. A lack of participation could be for completely different reasons. You might be in the hospital, you might be physically incapable of gathering, there may be an unexpected emergency, etc. HOWEVER, we don’t know that! And if we’re going to be good leaders–and I desperately don’t want to stand before God and explain why I wasn’t–we need to be willing to have some conversations.
One last note. I know you can take this as incredibly offensive. But Hebrew 13:17 ends by saying, “Let them (your leaders) do this with joy and not groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” If we have a conversation with you about something like church attendance please, don’t be offended or get defensive. We’re not there to build ourselves up; we’ve got problems too. And we’re not there to crush you. We’re there because we love you. We’re there because when you set us aside as elders, whether you realized it or not, you were asking us to keep watch over your soul. There’s absolutely no advantage in making this part of a pastor’s job difficult. We love you! We love you too much to sit around wondering if there’s something deeper behind a seemingly small action. My prayer for every member of our body is that they have a healthy, thriving connection with God and their brothers and sisters. I long for that so much, and love each of you so much, that I’m willing to ask.