Telling Members They Are Sinning In Deliberately Missing Church
By Bob W. Lovelace
Question: If you gathered together a list of excuses as to why members of a local church will “neglect” their collective duty to attend and participate in both the worship and works of the local church what would it include? From all over members who strive to fulfill their duty are saying that the excuses would be such as:
- I don’t think I need to come on Wednesday evening, even though I could, and besides I have things I prefer doing.
- If we want to stay home and read the Bible on our own we can. It is the preacher who is paid to be there not us. And often we don’t need that particular class or care for the particular teacher.
- Sunday night worship time interferes with my children’s supper time. Some also say that Wednesday night my kids need to rest and be fresh for school the next day.
- Some might say their work schedule changed but be the one responsible for the change in order that they might free some time for golf, fishing, or hunting, etc.
- All I have to do is be there for the Lord’s Supper and I have fulfilled my duty to God. (Note: There are many now in some places that are getting by with doing just that. What happened to their duty to fellow members?)
- I had one Liberal preacher tell me that a young couple in their church here in town actually told the elders that they would not be there Sunday mornings because that was their family’s “quality time” together. They assured them, however, that they would always be there on Sunday evenings. (Note: I replied, “And your elders accepted that?”)
The list could go on and on, thus I will stop with the above. In regard to the above and more a few preachers and teachers are willing to say that churches are openly tolerating sin in regards to those who offer excuses and do not fulfill their duty as a member to assemble when they can.
It appears that some, though, would assign “blame” to those who actually are attending as they are able with implications that suggest if it was more interesting and enthusiastic then the problem would be solved. Excuses aside (And that is what all of the foregoing are, including the immediate above paragraph blaming the faithful.) how do you go about correcting carnal and slothful (lazy) members in the Lord's service who fail in assembling when they can?
Realize The Unfaithfulness Of The Church As A “Whole”
First you realize that the unfaithfulness of the church as whole is in NOT dealing with those who are unfaithful in their attendance. We know brethren that there is an obligation on the part of the church to make sure of any particular member's faithfulness, and thus not to be guilty of allowing unfaithfulness (cf. Revelation 2:20; 2:14, 15; I Corinthians 5:2; etc.). Within this "common" membership there is a mutual obligation to the work and worship of the church (Acts 9:28; 11:26; 13:1; I Corinthians 11:18, 23; Ephesians 5:18-21, I Peter 5:2-3, etc.), with its own oversight and decision making based on "sound doctrine" (Acts 14:23; I Timothy 2:11-12; Titus 1:9, etc.).
Those in error are to be warned and exposed or convicted of their sin (I Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 10:25-27). Warning the unruly and convicting of error is the right attitude for those who assemble to have towards those who do not fulfill their duty and obligation to be there as a member when they can. The mutual obligation to ensure each member lives right before God at times involves some identifying to others their sins (II Timothy 4:1-5, rebuke by those preaching and teaching publicly; I Thessalonians 5:14, warn the unruly; Galatians 6:1, restore those overtaken in a trespass; I Corinthians 5:1ff, mourning sin and judging sinners and if necessary removing them; James 5:20, turning back the sinner; Jude 23, pulling some out of the fire; etc.).
Fear Is The Main Reason
The main reason that there is an obvious (manifest) attendance problem in so many churches is that the members themselves are afraid of disciplining for fear losing numbers, finances, status, etc. The "family" connection within a local church can also be a deterrent - how dare you talk to one of "my family" about their attendance. Both fear and carnal pride paralyzes churches! Thus they allow worldly members to come in, set their own non-scriptural attendance standards (We don't feel like we need to be in Bible classes; We want you to know that we “will not come” Sunday mornings for this is our "quality family time"; The mother who lets the men of the church and her own husband know that her kids need their rest on Wed. evening to be fresh for school the next day, but when school is out whose kids still need their rest; etc.), and dare the church to think otherwise! Moreover, it is a fact that many slothful wicked members just lie about being sick, "having" to work, etc.
Correction begins by the church, as a church, making a list of those not attending, and then men or elders if they have them contacting these members to find out why. When the sinner gives an excuse (We all know what they are and some have already been mentioned. ) or excuses, and it is obvious that they just do not want to take time to come because of some material lust or laziness , and it will be manifested (Galatians 5:19), then they are warned and told that the church expects them to repent of this immediately. If they repent immediately when confronted, Great! (Acts 8:24; Galatians 2:14). But should they resist the truth about their duty and obligation as a member then the church needs to be told as a whole immediately.
Friend, read carefully about the wicked and lazy servant in Matthew 25:18, 24-30. Compare this to those in the days of Noah who did not know that God would not show leniency in Matthew 24:37-39. Also read the excuses for not attending the Great Supper in Luke 14:16-24. Now note the “final outcome” or “end” for the “evil servant” who had talents to use in the Kingdom but didn’t in Matthew 24:44-51. Be aware that the “evil servant” in Matt. 24 is followed by the “five foolish virgins” who were “not ready” in Matthew 25. What was the final “end” for them? Return to the excuses in Luke 14 and note now the final “end” for them.
Warning: usually those who have set their "own" unscriptural standard for attendance, and who have been allowed to get by with it for some time, and who do not love the doctrine of Christ, will begin working carnally against whom ever they think is responsible for their sin being made known. So, do this as a church and do not put some lone member out there to be abused should Satan go to work. No one can be more bitter and set against the truth than members, both young and old, and widowed, who have been left with their excuses for years rather than being dealt with.
Brethren, if such continue in their carnality, slothfulness and disobedience in fulfilling this mutual obligation members have in the work and worship of the church which includes attending the church's Bible classes and the assemblies when they can be then they are to be withdrawn from (I Thessalonians 4:15; II Thessalonians 3:6).
The Some Of The Time’s Value Excuse
Although some will say they are wrong for missing services they offer the excuse that the “some of the time” they do come grants the possibility of their learning they should attend all of the time, while trying to qualify the “some” to be at least not once or twice a year but just on Sunday morning.
Abusing The Individual’s Fellowship Between One’s Self And God
Also, I'm seeing those who are abusing the "fellowship" that exists between an individual Christian and God ( “I like to just study at home during time for worship on Wednesday night.” See point number 2 ) in order that they might offer a lame duck excuse (sinful) for missing the "fellowship" requirement that exists between Christians in each local church (This goes back to a former point about "common membership" and duty to the church's work and worship.).
God’s People Should Be Told Their Sins!
In truth all the members, not just elders and teachers, should know that God's people should be told of their transgressions. If you know that any member is pleasing their own self and could be in services but just doesn't choose to be there, by all means then tell them their sin! Are you afraid to do that? To give emphasis to the preacher's and teacher's ability to tell them their sin consider the below as it relates to those who chose to please themselves rather than God. Notice their contradiction in what they say they seek and delight in and what they really are doing. I’ve bold faced a few words for emphasis.
"Cry loudly, do not hold back; raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins.Yet they seek Me day by day, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that has done righteousness, and has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, they delight in the nearness of God. 'Why have we fasted and Thou dost not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and Thou dost not notice?' Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, and drive hard all your workers. ... If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure, and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."
Those in rebellion choose their own way: “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations" (Isaiah 66:3). Those who had been guilty of tolerating immorality allowed God’s people to choose their own ways and delight in them! God said, “I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts" (Isaiah 65:2).