by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference
You’ve had a long week!
You’re not merely disappointed with yourself for not tying all the loose ends on your upcoming projects, but you are emotionally and physically spent! The last thing you want to do is to get up early on Sabbath morning to join your church family.
If you weren’t the pastor (or a church leader), what would motivate you—after a long week of increasingly challenging personal, marital, parenting and professional challenges and demands—to arise, get ready and leave the comfort of your home on a Sabbath morning to attend your local church?
In his article entitled “Why Attending Church No Longer Makes Sense”, Carey Nieuwhof, says: “Increasingly, I’m convinced there’s no point to merely attending. You drive all the way in to connect with three or four songs, hear the message and then head home. All of that you could almost do by yourself in a much more convenient way. Slip on Spotify and grab the message via podcast or on demand and boom, you’re covered.” (link for full article below)
Indeed, our Adventist members have a growing number of options at their fingertips if all they are seeking is an inspiring worship moment.
I agree with Nieuwhof, who says:
“YOU DON’T ATTEND CHURCH. YOU ARE THE CHURCH. . . I think being the church has something to do with living your life for Christ, demonstrating God’s love by serving others and sharing your faith with people. That’s very different than consuming church in a back row, which you can just as easily do on your back deck.”
Indeed, just showing up at church weekly does not qualify you as “the body”. There is a vast difference between being a disciple of Jesus Christ who daily feeds on (meditates) passages then prays for the Spirit’s empowerment to live out His Word in the daily work and leisure movements of life. We, as spiritual leaders, must pray and ask for divine wisdom on how we might move our members from being consumers to contributing members of the body of Christ.
When my wife and I visit an Adventist Church during our ministry travels, we ask ourselves if we would be compelled to return next week, if we’re guests visiting that church for the first time. When we are tempted to be too judgmental with our responses, we are compelled to remember that Jesus attended His local synagogue, even though He knew the actual intentions of the hearts of the priests and rabbis. He knew that they had little understanding of the Scriptures and the laws they so compulsively worshipped. He knew the spiritual leaders were plotting ways to make Him disappear . . .permanently; yet He still arose on Sabbath mornings, as was His custom (Luke 4:16) to go to the temple to worship. Jesus is my hero and my example!
Five things we can do to encourage people to come and worship on Sabbaths:
- Pray intentionally for the people you notice missing church frequently.
- Contact them, via phone or text, during the week to let them know you have missed them (a simple note card can be meaningful for older members).
- Offer yourself or an appropriate alternative to meet a felt need (offer a car ride, secure attire, offer to sit next to them etc.)
- If and when they show up, ensure they are greeted with warm and authentic joy.
- When the service is over, ask them how their experience was and if there is anything else that you can do for them to facilitate their return the following week. Keep praying for them.
Let’s continue to be intentional about asking God for effective ways to teach and inspire our church families about the importance of following Jesus’ example. Not merely in church attendance—as many may feel content with merely showing up, then leaving without contributing to and interacting with the body. Rather, let’s empower our members to fill their deep spiritual yearnings by feeding on His Word, spending sweet time in the contemplation of radical, salvific sacrifice, and sharing God’s love with someone who needs it. Let’s disciple our members into seeking and finding deep peace and joy in His presence as He, in turn, refills their parched and weary souls with deep love for Himself, for themselves and for their “neighbors”, both within and without the walls of our sanctuaries.