Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Retired Preacher's View from the Pew

Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Statistics (if you can believe them) show that less that 40% the people who call themselves Christians attend a worship service on a weekly basis.

When I was a fulltime preacher either before or after the worship service I would try to greet as many people as possible. I tried to vary the greetings: “How’s the new grandchild?” “Get to go fishing last week?” “How’s the new car?” “Got all your corn in yet?” “Feeling better after your bout with the flu?“ It was a way to feel closer to the people, to let them know you were in tune with their lives. Usually the remark was prefaced by “Good to see you.”

I can remember vividly when “Good to see you” backfired! The people it backfired with worshipped just a few times a year and took “Glad to see you” as a dig that they weren’t there most of the time. There were several times I was told that Mr. & Mrs. ____or so and so took “Glad to see you” as “Where have you been and why aren’t you here more often?”

Once I was told, “My son and his family finally came to church and they’re not coming again because you offended them.” “How did I do that?” “You told them you were glad to see them and other people heard you.”

So, what to do? Greet the people who are there regularly and forget the rest? (I have to admit that in my mind whenever I saw those folks I’d be tempted to greet them by saying, “Boy, I’m sure not very happy to see you today” or, “Bad hair day, huh?” or, “Been so long since you’ve been here I almost forgot your names.” I resisted the impulse and would just say “Good morning.”

I still like to greet as many people as I can when I get to my home church. We get there once or twice a month because I’m filling in at other churches. I had preached at my home church two weeks in a row and the following week a husband and wife who are “occasional worshippers” greeted my wife and me with “We haven’t seen you for a long time.” My wife quickly responded with, “Yes, it’s good to be here.” I told her later that I wanted to say, “Well, I preached here the last two weeks, didn‘t see you here.” She said, “I know, and I wasn’t going to give you the chance.”

My son-in-law from Canada says that people who attend church faithfully know where they’ll probably be the morning of November 28, or the morning of January 16, 2011, even March 20, next year (all Sundays). They’ll be in worship somewhere. He also says that the people who don’t attend worship regularly don’t decide until the night before or even on Sunday morning whether they‘ll go to church.

No, you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian. Do you have to go golfing to be a golfer or go fishing to be a fisherman or go to the Lion’s Club meetings to be a Lion? You don’t have to, but you will. And Christians will worship with other Christians regularly. It’s what they do, not because they have to but because it’s part of being what they are.

A closing thought--with Thanksgiving just ahead, we have to ask oursleves the question: "Am I thankful enough for the 168 hours God has given me this past week to give him a couple of hours back?"


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