Dear Absentee Church Member

Dear Absentee Church Member

Are you too busy for the church?  Are you too busy building your career while neglecting to build God’s kingdom?  Are you finding time to invest in secular relationships while neglecting spiritual relationships among your fellow church members?  Are you using your talents while neglecting to use your spiritual gifts?  If this sounds familiar, I would encourage you to take time to evaluate what the Bible says about neglecting the church.

As a pastor, I’m extremely concerned for the distracted, over-worked, casual church member.  I’m not merely concerned that they’re not occupying space in the sanctuary.  I’m concerned for their soul.  Consider the following warnings from the pages of Scripture.

#1 – Church Member: Neglecting to assemble for worship with the gathered church is a sin

Are you consistently absent from your church’s worship services?  Online church is not church.  It’s a filler for sick days or travel days, but it’s certainly not church.  In Hebrews 10:24-25 we see that our calling should be to “stir up” one another to love and good works.  How is this possible when you’re rarely gathered together with the church?  Consider the words of Mark Dever:

Nonattendance, in the early years of our church, was considered one of the most sinister of sins, because it usually veiled all the other sins. When someone began to be in sin, you would expect them to stop attending. [1]

#2 – Church Member: Neglecting God’s Word is a sin

Our appetite reveals much about our spiritual condition.  When you’re around sick people, they often have a very poor appetite.  This often results in the use of IV therapy in order to force the person to receive the nutrients necessary to sustain life.  What about the person who has time for their career, college football, recreation, vacation, and outdoor activities with the family but doesn’t desire the Word of God – specifically – the preaching of God’s Word?  What does this reveal about the spiritual condition of the described person?  The early church is pictured in Acts 2 as a people who desired the preaching and teaching of the Word.  The people of God in the Old Testament came out of a lengthy period of rebellion and had a burning appetite for God’s Word (Neh. 8).  If you find yourself in a state where you don’t have an appetite for God’s Word, you should search your heart for the reason.

#3 – Church Member: Neglecting the care of fellow church members is a sin

Membership in the local church involves responsibility.  Did you know that the physical and spiritual wellbeing of your fellow church members is your business?  This is one of the most important reasons to attend the weekly prayer meeting.  Exactly how are you involved in the regular care of your church on a spiritual level?  Consider what God’s Word says in Rom. 12:9-13, 1 Thess. 5:11, Phil. 2:4, and Gal. 6:2, 10.  Kevin DeYoung writes, “The man who attempts Christianity without the church shoots himself in the foot, shoots his children in the leg, and shoots his grandchildren in the heart.” [2]

#4 – Church Member: Neglecting to use your spiritual gifts for God’s glory is a sin

Have you considered the purpose in God’s gift to you and to His church with spiritual gifts?  Take time to consider what it would be like if tomorrow your right leg decided it wasn’t getting up for work.  How would that change your daily routine?  That’s why Paul used the body as an illustration about the importance of the entire church.  Everyone is needed and each body part is important (1 Cor. 12:12-26).

1 Corinthians 12:26 – If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

#5 – Church Member: Neglecting the gospel is a sin

Do you believe the gospel?  What are you doing to uphold the gospel and protect the church from a false gospel?  Not only did we need the gospel at the point of salvation, but we need the gospel daily.  Not only do we need the gospel daily, but so does the entire church family.  We must praise God through the gospel on a daily basis and preserve the church from error (Gal. 1:6; Jude 1:3; 1 Pet. 3:15; Titus 1:9).  Have you sought to correct anyone in your local church who has strayed away in the past 12 months?

#6 – Church Member: Neglecting to observe the ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s supper) is a sin

We are commanded by Christ to observe baptism and the Lord’s supper together as a church (Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25).  To neglect this responsibility and privilege is to neglect your own soul.  This is not an optional or extra credit opportunity suggested for a select group in the church.  This is ground zero, foundational, and essential for spiritual health.  Consider the words of Mark Dever:

Broadly speaking, baptism tends the front door of the church, while the Lord’s Supper tends the back door. Properly administered baptism (i.e., baptism of believers only upon a credible profession of faith) helps to ensure that only genuine believers are admitted into the membership of the church. Properly administered communion (i.e., communion given only to members in good standing of evangelical churches) helps to ensure that those who are under church discipline for unrepented sin do not scandalize the church or eat and drink judgment to themselves by partaking of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:29). [3]

#7 – Church Member: Neglecting to make disciples is a sin

We have been called to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20).  In the most logical manner, we begin in our neighborhood and move outward to the nations.  Notice that the command is not to go and get conversions.  We are to leave the converting up to God, and when that fruit comes, we are to baptize them and disciple them in the truth.  This involves the hard and persistent work of evangelism and discipleship – both rooted and grounded in the work of the local church.  That is not a command for “professionals” or pastors.  It’s a command for all of the children of God.

#8 – Church Member: Neglecting to follow your pastors is a sin

God has given us pastors for a reason.  That purpose involves leadership and spiritual care.  That type of leadership and spiritual care rubs against the grain of the American independent mindset.  We don’t want anyone getting into our business, so when someone unexpectedly applies Richard Baxter’s model of membership care, it seems odd, outdated, antiquated, and intrusive.  According to Hebrews 13:17, church members are to “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.”  Why is this command given?  The writer to the Hebrew Christians follows up with these words in Hebrews 13:17 – “Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”  To resist pastoral leadership is to endanger your soul.

#9 – Church Member: Neglecting members’ meetings is a sin

How does the church make decisions?  Are all decisions given over to the elders?  Does your church operate with any measure of congregationalism?  If so, you need to attend the church conferences (business meetings) and engage in the decision making of the church.  What ministries are being organized?  How are you helping to support and uphold the different ministries of the local church?  How does your church accept members or release members to other churches?  Are you involved with this process in the members’ meeting?  Do you know what’s happening in the life of the church?  What goals are the elders putting before the church?  What financial needs are present?  Do you know any specific need that you can pray for in the life of your church?  Consider the words of Charles Spurgeon:

I know there are some who say, “Well, I’ve given myself to the Lord, but I don’t intend to give myself to any church.”  I say, “Now why not?”  And they answer, “Because I can be just as good a Christian without it.”  I say, “Are you quite clear about that?  You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient?  There’s a brick.  What is the brick made for?  It’s made to build a house.  It is of no use for the brick to tell you that it’s just as good a brick while it’s kicking about on the ground by itself, as it would be as part of a house.  Actually, it’s a good-for-nothing brick.  So, you rolling stone Christians, I don’t believe that you’re answering the purpose for which Christ saved you.  You’re living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live and you are much to blame for the injury you do.” [4]

As a pastor I desire the best for the members entrusted to my care.  Pastoring is more than preaching, and the work of caring for the church is vitally important.  When sheep come up missing, it’s essential to find out why and work to bring them back into the family of faith.

If you’re an absentee church member, I want to encourage you to consider the danger of remaining in that position.  Don’t neglect the good gifts of God that come through the church.  Don’t neglect your faith, your family, and your own soul.  It’s time to stop saying that you’re too busy and start taking responsibility for your sin.

  1. Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 171.
  2. Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 132.
  3. Mark Dever, “Applying the Regulative Principle,” The Deliberate Church, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2005), 90.
  4. Tom Carter, Charles Spurgeon at His Best, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1988), 34.
Evening Church Attendance Matters

Evening Church Attendance Matters

Is it wrong to expect fellow Christians and members of your local church to attend worship services?  Is it a form of legalism to ask people to attend church?  The problem with isolationism and indifference toward the gathering of believers is not a new thing.  This problem has been around from the early days of the church.  The writer to the Hebrews made this statement in Hebrews 10:24-25:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, [25] not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

In our present church culture, it’s a common thing to see churches canceling their evening church services.  Church plants often start off from the beginning with only one service on Sunday.  It’s not my point in this article to throw rocks at those specific churches for making a decision to do away with the evening worship service.  The goal in this article is to ask an honest question – why would you want to miss the evening worship gathering if your church is gathered for worship each Sunday evening?  Why should you avoid missing this worship service?  Evening church attendance matters.

The Responsibility to Provoke Love and Good Works

The Greek term translated “stir up” is παροξυσμός – and it carries a positive and negative emphasis.  In the positive, it means to rouse to activity, stirring up, or to provoke.  In the negative, it means a state of irritation expressed in argument or a sharp disagreement.  The usage in this verse is clearly positive, and the idea is to provoke or encourage love and good works.  We are called to be doers of the Word – not merely hearers.  You can hear the Word through a website and various apps on a smartphone, but we are called to be active in the lives of the church – doing the Word (James 1:22).

Leadership Responsibilities

Pastors study all week for what purpose?  Just to talk?  Is it just about getting up and delivering a speech?  No, it’s far more than that.  Pastors are shepherd leaders who are invested in the lives of the people of the church.  They are called by God to care for the flock of God like shepherds in the field care for sheep.  It is the duty of the pastor to preach the Word in order for the church to be edified in the faith, convicted of sin, and equipped for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-13; 2 Tim. 4:1-5).

Not one place in the Bible do you see an exhortation for pastors to disciple and equip one part of the church in a more intense way than another part of the church.  How are the pastors of the church able to fulfill their calling in your family if you’re never present on Sunday evenings with the rest of the church?  It is the calling of the church to submit to leaders (Heb. 13:7; 17), and a lack of attendance shows a lack of submission.

Church Family Responsibilities

Gathering together for worship helps us to encourage one another to grow in love for God and for the church as a whole.  Likewise, it helps to provoke one another to good works, or deeds acceptable to God.  From a practical standpoint, this encouragement leads to a life of holiness.  You eventually start to look like and act like those you spend the most time with.  Furthermore, this is a means of serving Christ and the church.  We can use our spiritual gifts as a gathered church, but we can serve one another out of love.  According to Mark Dever, along with Paul Alexander, in their book The Deliberate Church, If a member shows prolonged negligence in gathering with God’s people, how can he say he loves them? And if he doesn’t love them, how can he say he loves God (cf. 1 John 4:20-21)?” [1]

Avoid Isolationism

One of the greatest goals of the enemy is isolate us from the church.  Isolationism can come in many different packages.  It can come through division in the church that results in people not attending based on broken relationships.  Isolationism can come through a desire to spend more time with your own family.  Isolationism can come through increased responsibilities at your place of employment.  Isolationism is possible on the church campus by increased service responsibilities that remove you from the gathering of the church.

Beware of isolationism.  Remember, by the very definition of the word church (ἐκκλησία), God has demonstrated a plan for His people.  The word ἐκκλησία means “a called out assembly.”  The plan of God for His people is the church.  The church gathers for worship and praise to God.  The church gathers for encouragement and discipline of one another.  The church assembles as a together people who are unified in Christ and seek to build one another up in love.  This simply isn’t possible alone.  Isolation is the plan of the devil, the church gathered together is the plan of God.

Encourage One Another

In Hebrews 10:25, we are called to encourage one another.  How is this possible when we aren’t together?  Sure, we live in a connected world of technology where texting is easy and we sense that people are close to us because of technology.  Has technology created a superficial environment for you that has led you to isolate yourself from the church with a false assumption that you can encourage people through Facebook or Twitter?  It’s not possibile.  We need more.  We crave more.

God designed the church to assemble, and part of that assembly is to encourage one another.  This life is harsh and as the coming of Christ draws near, it will become more and more harsh toward Christians.  We must be committed to one another as members of the church.  We must deny selfish ambition and things that will prevent us from encouraging one another in the faith.  In order to be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord, we need encouragement.  Perseverance in the faith is hard, and encouragement along the journey is necessary.

One of my highlights each week is the evening worship service.  I enjoy preaching in the evening to the church.  It serves as the last means of encouragement before we all go out into the world on Monday morning.  It’s a time of refreshing fellowship.  Often after church in the evening, we gather with some friends to talk and fellowship over a meal.  In recent days, my fellow pastors in the church have been sharing the pulpit with me and I especially enjoy hearing the Word preached to me.  Evening church is not an option for my family, and this isn’t because I’m a pastor.  It’s because I need it.  My family needs it.  So long as our church gathers on Sunday evenings, we will make it a regular part of our family life.  I would encourage you to do the same thing.

Questions to Consider

  • Does evening church attendance matter less than morning church attendance?
  • Do you consistently miss church based on a work commitment?  If so, who made that choice?  Is it a temporary one or is it a long term commitment you made?  Did you consider your church when you made the commitment?
  • Is your isolation from evening church based on a desire to spend more time with your family?  Do you really have limited family time?  Could you perhaps cut out something of lesser importance than the gathering together of the church?
  • Do you persevere in your isolation based on a mere habit or perhaps – laziness?  Have you considered what isolation will do to your own soul?  Have you considered how your church depends on you and when you’re absent – you become increasingly distant from the church?
  • What would please the devil more – faithfulness to the gathered church or isolation from the church?
  • Do you think that attending one church service on Sunday morning fulfills your calling as a Christian?  Is Sunday the Lord’s day or is it the Lord’s morning?
  • Does your church skipping cause you to miss the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper?  Do you think this is optional?
  • Does your lack of church attendance on Sunday evenings cause you to miss church conference (business sessions)?  Do you consider this an optional event in the life of the church?
  • Does your non-attendance better honor Christ and help you serve your church or does it move in the opposite direction?
  • Does your lack of attendance from the regular gathering of believers on Sunday evening discourage others in the church?
  • Are you able to hear the prayers of the people, or for the people, in the church as an absentee?
  • Will sin be confronted in your life if you remain isolated from the church?
  • Will isolation from the gathered assembly promote holiness in your life?
  • Does your isolation from regular evening church point toward a lack of submission to leadership or the church as a whole?
  • Do you believe that regularly skipping the evening church service will increase friendships in the church?
  • Do you have less responsibility for caring for people in the church than they do for you?

  1.  The Deliberate Church – Building Your Ministry on the Gospel, 2005, 47.