by William J. Stewart
What do you think is the most difficult sermon to preach? A host of topics might be suggested, but I doubt what I have in mind is one of them. The book of Revelation can be intimidating, but that’s not it. Refuting Premillennialism, Calvinism or some other false doctrine effectively demands a lot of preparation, but none of those are the most difficult sermon to preach. So, what is it? What is the most difficult sermon to preach? This may surprise you, but it is attendance.
Shocked? Confused? Not sure how that could be? Certainly there are topics that are much more challenging so far as the content and complexity. That is not the problem. Neither is it a topic that preachers are tentative to speak about. So, what’s the problem?
It is simply this – the people who need to hear a sermon on attendance the most are rarely at the assembly! A sermon on attendances usually ends up being a “preaching to the choir” situation, unless the preacher tucks away a lesson to be pulled out on that special Sunday when the largest number of irregular attendees show up.
A capable brother wrote about attendance:
Preachers should never have to preach on attendance. It should be obvious that when a Christian does not care to attend all the services, his interest is elsewhere. It is foolish to assert that we have a passage which pronounces anathema on those who don’t come on Sunday and Wednesday nights. We don’t need one. All we need show is that interest and attendance are connected and that a person who is truly interested will attend.
Now you can try to explain that away all you want and when you are finished it will still say the same thing: a person who is able yet does not attend the services is not interested in what is going on at the services. Bring your excuses, pronounce your justifications, and rationalize all you want. And when you are done, the parable of the sower will still affirm the same thing: prepared soil is the only kind which results in good fruit. (Dee Bowman, via www.aubeacon.com)
I’m not sure it could be stated any plainer than that. If an individual has the ability to be at the assembly but chooses to be elsewhere, where is that person’s heart? Also, if an individual, despite physical ailments, has the fortitude to go here and there during the week, then the same is able to be at the assembly of the saints. If not, why not?
The Cost of Poor Attendance
None of us are in a bubble. What we do will have an affect on others. And so it is with poor attendance. Not assembling with the church will have negative consequences for the one who is absent, but also for the local church and the family and friends of the one who is not assembling: Consider:
- The one who is not present cannot grow in faith as they otherwise might have;
- The more one misses the assembly, the easier it becomes to miss the assembly, until eventually, they don’t go at all;
- If one has little or no interest being with God’s people here and worshiping God now, they’ll not be interested in heaven (nor will they have an opportunity to go);
- A local church needs its members, all of them. A church with absent members is like a body missing limbs;
- Your absence discourages those who have assembled together (NOTE – I used to assemble expecting to see all my brethren; sadly, now I tend to expect some will not be there);
- Your absence makes inviting folks from the community difficult. What message do we give visitors when our own members are irregular in their attendance?
- Your absence affects the church’s ability to meet it’s financial obligations;
- Your absence tells your family, friends, and neighbours that assembling with the church really isn’t that important. And if the assembly isn’t important, they are also learning from you that the Bible isn’t important, and that God isn’t important;
- Your absence will have negative results in your life – you’ll start going places you ought not go, you’ll start doing things you ought not do, you’ll start saying things you ought not say.
I’m sure there are a number of other things we could include in this list, but we’ll let the above suffice. Absenteeism has bad results.
The Benefits Of Assembling
Let’s close with a focus on good things. There are several good things that will come from the choice to assemble with the local church on every occasion available:
- God will be glorified. He is our Creator, our Sustainer, our Father, and our Saviour. We ought to take every opportunity to give glory to God;
- You will be encouraged. I’ve never heard anyone walk away from an assembly with God’s people saying they were discouraged;
- The work of the church will not be hindered. Your free will offering will be used with the free will offerings of others to meet the financial responsibilities of the local church;
- The spread of the gospel will be affected for good. When visitors see the enthusiastic interest of all the members of the local church, they will truly see the love of Christ in us and the concern for souls;
- You will influence your family members, your friends, and your neighbours. They will see how important godly things are in your life, they will see your growth in faith, they will see the changes in your life, and their interest may be perked – and maybe they too will come to the assembly.
Friend, we look forward to seeing you at the assemblies of the local church, this week and every week.