Excuses, excuses...

It was cold this weekend.

Cold. I remember looking at the thermometer in the van. It read -2 at 3:30pm.


But the roads were not bad for the most part. The plows did their job and the snow was a light powder anyway.

But what I have a hard time with is this. Total attendance was down by almost 200 this weekend.

I'm trying to understand why.

I'm guessing that some would say it was too cold to get out with their kids. But one of our singers came Sunday morning with her three kids and was here by 8 AM. My wife was here to serve in the nursery and made it here in one piece with our 2 yr old. And we had several families here with young babies. One newborn - about a week old. So that kind of shoots the "It's too cold to get our kids out" argument.

I was at the church at 6:30 AM on Sunday. The roads were in good shape around here. No argument there. Unless you live in the sticks and they don't plow. But, I'm pretty sure I saw some families here who live way out there.

I suppose there may have been some who have no garage and their car would not start due to the cold. I'll concede that one. But if it were me, I'd have some way to keep my car functioning so that I could get to work during the week and use that on the weekend too.

I guess what it comes down to is that there is always some excuse to which we could cling. Too cold. Too hot. Too wet. Too dry. Too busy. Too early. Too late. Too whatever.

In my mind, church has always been a commitment that ranks pretty high on my list. Unless I'm puking my guts out, or I physically cannot get to the building due to impassable streets, I'm going to get there.

But then, maybe my perspective is skewed.


6 Responses to "Excuses, excuses..."

Tahd said... December 22, 2008 at 1:21 PM

My thermometer read -13 at 7:00 this morning. It made me feel cold until I read the news from northern Maine, where temps were -29 to -40 over the weekend.

Anyway, about your post... I'm sensing some bitterness? A little sarcasm? Maybe even a little judgement?

In answer to your question, yes, I think your perspective is skewed (not that "skewed" is necessarily bad), probably by at least a couple of things:
a. your position, for two reasons
1. your position requires you to be at church basically every week, so I think you come to expect that if you're there, others should be there, too
2. as a pastor, I think it's probably natural that you take some level of offense when people don't give church/God the same priority that you do. You may feel indignant on behalf of God because it appears that people aren't making him the priority in their lives, or you may be offended that you and the other staff/pastors took the time to prepare the music/lights/drama/sermon/etc, and they didn't bother coming to see/hear/experience it.

b. your upbringing - if you were raised with church as a high "make-it-or-die-trying" priority, then that perspective naturally seems "right" to you. But there are others whose families were "Easter and Christmas" attenders. They may feel like they are going WAY above and beyond the call if they attend just once a month. They might look out and say, "you know what, it's pretty darn cold out, and I already attended every other week for the last 2 months (which means I'm really entitled to take the next 2 months off if I wanted to), so I'm just going to stay home today". Not that that perspective is right or wrong, but it just "is".

c. your definition of "too" - ("too" cold, "too" hot, etc.) On this one, I pretty much agree with you. It's kind of funny, because I just wrote a weather rant on my blog, and alluded to some of the same things. I pretty much feel that weather happens, and we live with it. When it's "nice" (however we define "nice"), we enjoy it, and when it's "unpleasant" (however we define that), we put up with it. But what you/I consider "reasonable warmth" may very well be "too hot" for someone else. Or someone's pediatrician may have advised them not to take their child out in the cold. Legitimate reasons aside, I agree that we can always find excuses to not do things that are inconvenient or otherwise not something we're looking forward to. And when those "things" involve worshipping God, we can bet that Satan will be right there helping us come up with more excuses.

d. extenuating circumstances - you mentioned cars not starting, but what about pipes freezing, garage doors frozen down, frozen locks, etc.? Or the extenuating circumstances that aren't necessarily weather-related? (alarm clock failure, sick kids, (sick grownups), out too late the night before, ride didn't show up, etc...

e. expounding on item B above, what does God expect of us in regards to church attendance? The Bible tells us not to forsake the regular gathering together of believers, but does mean we need to gather every week? That's our custom, but I don't know that it is a mandate. Why not every other week? Or why not twice a week? Maybe Harvest should start a midweek service. Maybe we need to meet multiple times a week, as often as we have the opportunity. The church should always be staffed, and if I don't have another commitment, I should be heading to church to get together with others who are also free at that time. Ok, so I'm stretching a bit... ;-)

f. finally, you said "church has always been a commitment that ranks pretty high... I'm going to get there [if at all possible]." Knowing you, I believe and assume (and hope) that this is because your relationship with God is such that you look forward to every opportunity to get together with Him and with other believers. But for some people, attending church is more of a ritual - to get the perfect attendance award or because they think going to church in itself gets them closer to God, or because it's what they've always done. Does God really honor/bless them for going through the motions, if their heart isn't in the right place? I don't know. Maybe they're better off taking a week off (and if "it's too cold" is the excuse, then so be it) than coming in with a chip on their shoulder or an attitude that says "go on, just TRY to make your music/sermon speak to my heart". Rather than chastise them for not attending, what if we sought them out and asked them if there is a need in their life that we can help meet, or what hurt in their life is distancing them from God?

My 2 cents on a chilly Monday lunch-hour.

TWBD said... December 22, 2008 at 1:55 PM

Wow....both of you packing a punch! Tahd brings up some great points on how the "church" gets stuck on its ritual and not necessarily on the hearts of those who make it up. Tahd, I especially like how you have kept it real, and not "churchy". Keith - keep on bringing it! Tahd, nice post and reminder that people are just as individual as their Creator made them.

jordan said... December 22, 2008 at 2:31 PM

Try living in Dallas with a 12:15 Dallas Cowboy start time...hmmmm

Keith said... December 22, 2008 at 8:58 PM

Yes. Definitely some bitterness this morning. Absolutely some sarcasm (trying to get some discussion going here... :) ). Sadly, there was probably some judgment. And for that I need to ask forgiveness.

You're right on a lot of points Tahd. I know that my position skews my point of view. But, I don't think I was writing so much in judgment of peoples motives as much as not understanding them (fed by the skew?). It is frustrating when many of our church family don't show on the weekend. Not because I feel I'm so great or the preparation demands their attention. But because I think we all gain from meeting together.

My thoughts at 7:30...
Keep em coming!

Keith said... December 22, 2008 at 9:00 PM

Jordan, never made it over after a Cowboy game. Did get caught after a couple Mav games though. NOt fun!
We tried to stay closer to Ft Worth whenever possible.

TWBD said... December 23, 2008 at 9:40 AM

Tahd and Keith - if you're still in the mood - what should our expectations be of people for "remembering the Sabbath....and forsaking not the assembly together....?" If we are to have forms that resonate with the varying cultures of our southern Milwaukee county and beyond, what does that look like? By the way, the "beyond" part invites everyone reading this out there to jump in with some opinions.

Do we just prepare the table of worship and hope people come? Do we ask people what they like, and only fix things they will consume? Do we offer a wide variety, buffet, that we know everyone can find at least something they like?

We busted Keith a little for feeling bummed that people didn't show up after lots of people work so hard to prepare His communion table. What should it look like? What would He have us do differently? Or does He expect us to come through the doors indignantly because people have not honored His place as a House of prayer and worship and rather they treat it as a den of iniquity where you choose to buy-in or opt out week to week, moment to moment?

So go ahead, Keith, turn some tables over, destroy those attitudes that would come as merchants or consumers. Let's turn this place upside down if that is what it takes. :-)

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