Do you remember that little rhyme?
It seems we have lost a few fingers these days! All across America there is a decline in church attendance. Conferences, seminars, podcasts, books, and more have been developed to help us overcome this problem. We offer various styles and times. We offer suits or sandals. We offer serenity and sanctity. However, the decline is still occurring. Sure there are pockets of places where a church is growing wildly but a closer look would likely reveal that the local churches around are wildly declining too. In total, there is still decline.
Jesus told the following story.
“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” — Luke 14:16-24
When you take a look at the reasons for people not coming to this event, they are oddly familiar.
1. Each had good intentions but did not go. The invitation went out in plenty of time. Each of these mentioned stated they would be there since the Master assumed their attendance. These responders accepted the invitation and had every intention of going, but they did not. Good intentions do not produce good results without better involvement. Do you realize that you have a standing invitation to church every week? Do you realize that by your faith in Christ you have already accepted the invitation to be a part of His church that gathers in a local building to praise and glorify God? Do you get to Friday and Saturday with every good intention of getting to church but….just….don’t?
2. Each had, seemingly, legitimate reasons. When the servant arrived to tell them it is time each person had a reason for not going. One had business/work that had to be done. How often do we let work get in the way of gathering with God’s people where he planted you? One had personal issues to deal with. We often acquire possessions that wind up possessing us. That boat, toy, or other item seems to scream for attention. There will be other times. The church will always be there. Let’s go! One had family reasons. It amazes me how much a toddler can disrupt two grown, intelligent human beings! When family comes to town, the time rolls around and we turn down the invitation. The extended family didn’t want to go…. Do you think they will rob you blind if you’re gone? Leave them in bed and get to church.
3. None seemed to understand the lasting effects. When children grow up and flake out of church and Christianity, parents by the dozen don’t understand. I often hear, “I raised them in church.” Did you? Getting around to church once a month or so does not constitute raising them in church. Dropping them off while you go shopping, napping, or getting high, does not count as raising them in church. One chose what was more pressing. One chose what was more convenient. One chose what was more interesting. Church attendance is not sacramental but it is certainly developmental. The discipline of attendance is part of the cost of discipleship. In addition, serving in the local church develops your spiritual life. Each of these had something else to do and chose to do that other thing. What other thing is Satan tempting you to do instead?
The best things in life are never free. Studying the Bible with other believers is not always convenient or comfortable but it is necessary. Worship with other believers is not always easy or your style , but it is necessary. Jesus is building His church. He’s been wondering where you have been.