…thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty.” ―1 Samuel 20:18
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress last week. He is only foreign leader to ever speak before a joint session of Congress besides Winston Churchill. So this was a monumental event that doesn’t happen very often.
What I find interesting was the absence of President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State John Kerry considering the historical nature of the event. Although they excused their absence because of “other commitments” their absence spoke loud and clear—Their absence plainly said, “Whatever Netanyahu has to say is not important!” (Huh? Iran’s nuclear ambitions is not important?). What other “commitment” was so important that it could not be rescheduled so that these democratic leaders could (and should) attend. After all, Israel is one of America’s closest allies.
As I thought about this, I considered what a Christian’s absence from church says about their priorities. I know there are some legitimate reasons for occasionally missing a church service (employment, illness, out-of-town). But most excuses are pretty lame. Your absence says things like, “I don’t need the preaching/teaching of God’s Word.” Or, “Corporate worship is not as important as other things I want to do” (like sleeping in… going to a sporting event… watching TV… visiting with friends… etc.)
Don’t be deceived. Your absence is noticed by fellow church members and most of all by the Lord.
…all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.” — Acts 17:21
Everyone has seen a picture of a horse pulling a cart while a carrot is dangled in front of it’s face from a pole just out of the horse’s reach. The carrot motivates the horse to pursue it thus pulling the cart behind.
I believe many churches use the “carrot stick” method to draw people to their church. They dangle some new program or gimmick before a prospect to motivate them to visit their church. However, eventually that “carrot” gets stale and loses it’s appeal. Then they need to get some new “carrot” to dangle in front of people to keep them coming or reach new people. They are always looking for some new thing to excite people into attending their church.
It reminds me of a song by Vince Gill titled, “The Next Big Thing.” The song is about how someone can make it big with some new style or approach. But after awhile, people get bored with it and start looking for “the next big thing.” The cycle keeps repeating. As Vince sings…
When you finally hit the top, you know what that means,
Everybody’s ready for the next big thing.
I know I’m “old school” and people will say I’m behind the times. I’m not opposed to new ways of doing things. But I believe the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ is still the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Instead of always looking for some new carrot, why not use a “carrot” that never gets stale—The simple Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Why People Go To Church?
A preacher friend of mine recently sent me this post from Facebook: “When a person goes to church, they are supposed to go to hear the Bible preached, not hear the Band play. Church is about the Bible and Jesus, not the band. If you dropped the band from many church services, would people still attend? I say, when the band goes, the people go too, and where the band goes, the people go too.”
Unfortunately, this reveals the sad spiritual condition of many church members today. Consider the following REAL reasons why many people go to church:
- To hear the Bible preached and taught.
- To worship the Lord.
- Because the church uses their favorite Bible version.
- Because a family member attends.
- Because a friend attends.
- Because they like the music.
- Because they like the Pastor or a staff member. (A pastor is naïve who thinks everyone attends because of him or his preaching!)
- Because they like the ministries the church offers to them (Youth ministry, children’s ministries, Nursery, etc.).
- Because they hold a position in the church.
- Because the church is conveniently located.
- Because they like the fellowship when they come.
- Because they hope to win the lost.
- Because it meets their “felt” needs.
If a person attends a church primarily for any one of these reasons, if that reason were no longer in the church, the person would leave. For example, if you attend primarily because one of your friends attends here (#5), if that friend left, you would leave also. Or, if you attend mainly because you like a church staff member (#7), if that staff member were to leave, you would probably leave also. If you attend because of one of the ministries here (#8), if that ministry ever ceased to exist, you would probably go some place else that offered that ministry.
Those are the cold hard facts of the “seeker-sensitive” mentality prevalent in American Christianity today.