Tag Archives: church attendance

Leftovers for God? Is that a smart way to go?

Yea the Blackabys have inspired me to get this written, it’s been sitting for awhile, but the blanks have been filled in. It’s about how we give God the leftovers, if that. I’m not innocent of this, as I lay person I didn’t have an appreciation for what goes on at a church while I’m not there and didn’t feel as motivated as I should to give the very best. The Blackabys point out”When the Israelite gave an offering to God, it was no longer their own, it belonged entirely to God. God would only accept the best that people could give. It was an affront to almighty God to offer him animals that were damaged or imperfect in any way. God Himself set the standard for sacrifices when He offered His own Son as the spotless lamb.”(Experiencing God Day by Day Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby p 268).

Certainly to the point they write “You do not serve Him in your spare time or with your leftover resources.” Yea, as a pastor I really do feel it. Too often “hey here’s five in the offering plate, great service.” Try to imagine how that makes me feel. I really do try to make worship as uplifting and yes challenging as possible. Compare that to the therapist/counselor who charges, just you, a lot more. I’m there to push you to grow in Jesus, to make the best for Him for what He’s given you and to also push myself. I have some great folks who help me, but too often you just hear about how the big box church has produced some massive show for about one-tenth your total annual budget for one Sunday.

But for the most part, it’s about people’s soccer games (a general reference to all the other things going on Sundays. Really?! Sunday? Morning? seven days in the week, you can’t reserve half a day, read give or take three hours?) To be there to lift up praise and worship to God Father, Son and Holy Spirit who created you, sustains you and gives those in Jesus the promise of eternal life? How about the other folks that do rely on church for encouragement, often times just to see younger people and interact and encourage others. Few if any there to encourage them, because they’re working, they’re traveling, they’re at sports or some other event, they’re at home because they had a tough week. Yes, maybe three Sundays out of 52 (not including weekday worships, which I miss even more rarely), I am there the rest of the time really trying my best. No I’m no Chuck Swindoll and I’m always looking for feedback. However I’m also working hard to faithfully worship as millions have for 500 years and millions do around the world today. That is a faithfulness that can’t be matched by any of our current fads, that just have to be on Sunday morning.

I get it, people do travel, people do other things. But clearly the priority is no longer church, worship, their pastor, their fellow congregants. People tell me all the time they’re going to meet with me, they’re going to come to church. Gotten to the point where it seems, unless of course someone wants something, that about 80% of the time what they say is bupkus. So much for integrity. My wife says they just tell you what you want to hear. Really how about just tell me the truth? It’s far more disillusioning when someone tells me something that they will do and don’t, then just telling me the way it is. I’m a big, tough, ugly, gnarly guy, you’re not going to hurt me with the truth. But wow, when people say they’ll be there, do something, support something and don’t because there is something more interesting going on elsewhere, it really does beat you down and yea does hurt. Really what I do isn’t interesting and challenging?

Hey, to be sure I’m not going to stop. There are Christians through history and all around the world who are going through far worse than I am and I’ve made promises to the church, to the congregation to do as much as I can. I feel very strongly the need to be able to tell someone I did all I could, probably more for Christ and His church. Yes, there may come a time when I may have to sacrifice a lot more. For now I can look you in the face and say I have every intention of being faithful to my vows, for working hard 6+ days a week. For those who have become church members, you might also want to remember that you made vows to be a member to support the church with your time, treasure and talent. From 13 year old confirmands to those who come to Christ later in life. Way too many just pooh-pooh those vows. (As far as time, for most of you a two day weekend is a given, for me, it’s a holiday. If I have one day that is truly about me and my family, that’s even pushing it. I can’t remember the last time that I had a three day weekend. Hasn’t been in the last year.)

How about it? For those who have never gone, maybe you should get over yourselves and see what it’s all about. For those who have a “sawtooth” pattern, if that regular, maybe you could step it up about 50%, maybe everyone could do a little more in all respects to the time, treasure and talent? “But I’m so busy!” I will compare Day-Timers with anyone out there, you’re not that busy. Giving the best to God? I’ve had people who haven’t been in church in decades, members, who call me and expect that because of some, usually tragedy, that I’m supposed to now jump for them. There are people who’ve supported that church for decades, so that I could be there, but you didn’t, now I supposed to jump for you? And for those who like to give me that patronizingly little pat on the head “oh it will all work out”, no, no it won’t. And you won’t like it.

I am privileged to work with a handful of people at my church who can say they do. But for the most part, the rest just give left-overs and for too many people pretty scraggly left overs. So yea, this is a challenge, especially to the guys. Let’s see you step up and really lead your family in Christ, start by showing up, listening to what needs to happen, being that disciple of Christ that your wife, children, community, employers will be forever grateful for, as well as your brothers and sisters in Jesus, you will be great and I will be there to do whatever I can to make you that guy. Lose the lame excuses and step up to things of eternal value.

Well being, church attendance enhances well being hmmmm

Gallup research conducts and maintains a “Well-Being Index” on various aspects of Americans well being. Well, well, what do you think they found? “In U.S. Churchgoers Boast Better Mood, especially on Sundays.” (Gallup – Healthways Well-Being Index in 2011) The study was done by Chaeyoon Lim who sub-titled the study “Those who don’t attend religious services often see their mood decline.”

I am not saying that church should always be a “feel-good” experience, frankly if folks left worship from First St Johns and they didn’t feel a little, oh I don’t know, disturbed? If they didn’t feel a little challenged, a little pushed, I’d probably be disappointed. Sure I want people to be pumped up, encouraged, thankful to God and renewed in their relationship with Jesus. Frankly I’m not surprised that they are in a better mood. Even if they’ve been challenged, pushed, they still know whose they are, our Father’s. They know that they are part of the Body of Christ, surrounded by brothers and sisters in Jesus and ready to start a new week in the Lord standing for the Lord in the world. So yes they should leave worship in a “Better Mood”.

“…regular churchgoers seem to do better than non-churchgoers… in terms of their daily positive wellbeing experiences. This underscores previous Gallup research that finds very religious Americans do better across numerous dimensions of well being than do those who are less religious or not at all religious.”

And look, don’t give me any of this “Moonie effect” or other non-sense, there is no doubt in my mind that the general “well-being” of Americans has been directly related to the decrease of community and especially being a part of a church community. This goofy idea that you will be happier sitting at home watching television by yourself, thinking that you are genuinely getting community on your computer, the stories go on and on and you know them as well as I do. The solution, get off your quista and get out among real human beings. As we as a culture continue to cut ourselves off from each other, the worse our life attitude will be. Sit home by ourselves, isolated and vulnerable, Satan picks us off one by one. The Bible tells us two are better than one, we all need others to “have our back”, where better than brothers and sisters in Jesus?

The study goes on to report: “Not only do Americans who attend a church, synagogue or mosque frequently report having higher wellbeing in general, but they also get an extra boost to their emotional state on Sundays – while the rest of Americans see a decline in their mood. The average number of positive emotions frequent churchgoers report experiencing rises up to a high of 3..49 for the week on Sundays, whereas for those who attend church monthly or less often, the average number peaks on Saturdays and declines to a range of 3.14 to 3.29 on Sundays.” Yea, you read that right, on the day before we have to go back to the old salt mine, people who attend worship actually get a bump in their wellbeing. There is a sense of being secure in something bigger, knowing you are with like-minded brothers and sisters in Jesus and the research confirms this: “…the research found that friendship in church is more strongly correlated with life satisfaction than friendships in other contexts such as the workplace or a book club. It is not only that churchgoing Americans may be more likely to socialize on Sundays, but also that they are spending time with co-religionists who can especially boost their mood.”

Let’s face it, church does put you into proximity of people who are like-minded, feel secure being in church and something to readily share with each other. (Hopefully it’s not, ‘wow, pastor’s sermon was brutal today.’) This research lines up with so many other studies that show numerous positive outcomes to church, worship, prayer etc. While the world stresses individuality, isolation, “feeling good” in things such as materialism, covetousness, sex, drugs, booze and rock and roll, the reality is that well being is found in church, in worship, in the presence of those who are brothers and sisters in Christ. It stands to reason, we come into the presence of the almighty Creator, Sustainer of all things. He knows us better than we know ourself, He forgives us, He has given us a way through the sacrifice of Jesus to come into relationship with the all knowing, all powerful Lord of all. We have the assurance that through the forgiveness we have in Christ’s sacrifice that we will have eternal life in a new perfect world, the world that the Father intended before we messed it up with our sin. If all this doesn’t enhance your “well-being” then you need to sit down with your pastor and have a long serious discussion.