Has Attendance Become Equal to Godliness?
You might have been in a conversion when another brother or sister is mentioned and you hear a response like, “It’s too bad that they don’t come to ________ (fill in the blank) meeting.” or “They could be such a great help if only they were more committed to the meetings.”
Attendance in many assemblies is seen as the premium measuring stick for spirituality or commitment. If you show up you are a good Christian. If you don’t, well you get added to the prayer list.
A biblical view
The problem with placing a high priority on church attendance is that it misses some of the main teachings of what the church is in the New Testament. It also places an unhealthy emphasis on the external appearance and activity and not on the heart which is far more important.
Christ’s view of outward appearances
It’s pretty clear from the life of the Lord that he had no time for people who lived their religion on the outside but failed to live it on the inside. Jesus said very bluntly,
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. Matthew 23:27
What mattered most to Him was the condition of a person’s heart. Why is it then that we fail to view others the same Way?
A refusal to change our meetings
This has caused undue tension in many assemblies because instead of working with Christians to arrange schedules and meetings that work, many elders refuse to make changes.
We need to have more grace in working together as a body to facilitate growth and more dedication to Christ and not to a formal set of meetings.
Moving the prayer meeting
An example that comes to mind is for my own local church. For 45 years the prayer meeting had been during the week. Many of the younger families could not make this meeting and therefore missed out on corporate prayer.
Instead of looking down on those who seemed “uncommitted” the elders moved the corporate prayer time to Sunday evening when more of the families were able to attend. The result was very positive and it remains to this day after 5 years.
The focus should not be on format, timing or tradition when it comes to how we conduct our meetings. The focus should be on moving God’s people into a deeper relationship with him. What time we have the Lord’s supper or prayer meetings or how long they last are all non-biblical issues.
Elders in each church must decide for themselves what will work best for their saints. That’s the beauty of the freedom we have in Christ. He doesn’t lead us all in the same way.
God has given us a clear mandate to build up his people. The next time we are tempted to say of others that they are uncommitted let’s instead come alongside them and ask how we can help them grow in their relationship with the Lord.
That’s where true spiritual maturity can flourish.