In December of 2003 I taught a short series of sermons under the banner “Church Life for Teens.” The initial motivation for that series was that I really wanted students to understand the importance of the biblical ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I tagged on a short message concerning church etiquette, hoping to instruct students about customary and polite behavior at church (such bottom line basics like not sleeping in church or getting up, leaving, and returning in the middle of a service).
Perhaps those connected to one28 remember the events that followed. As I was preaching through those messages on church life I realized I had missed a fundamental thing. My assumption was that the church was a priority. I was wrong. There were some parachurch groups becoming more and more popular at that time and a number of our own students were directing a good portion of their time and energy into things I argued were inferior to, if not in direct competition with, the church. So I taught a couple messages on the Potential Problems with Parachurch.
But almost four years later I see another trend. This trend is even more of a threat than parachurch groups or misunderstanding about proper church behavior or ignorance about the ordinances. This trend is more selfish and more dangerous and more disobedient and more dishonoring to God than perhaps all those others. The trend, the threat, is NEGLECTING THE LORD’S DAY.
There is an increasing pattern of neglecting the Lord’s Day, Sunday, in our culture. That is probably to be expected. But most alarming is the growing disregard for Sunday and corporate worship I see among my own students (and across the whole church).
I’ve given a lot of thinking effort in attempt to pinpoint why there is so much neglect. Maybe some students just don’t know. Perhaps the problem is plain old Bible ignorance about the priorities and practices of the Lord’s day. The only thing they know about the Lord’s day is that their parents have made them go all their life. It’s just the pattern, not their passion. If that’s the case, I hope some instruction will help stir up eagerness and energy for first-day gathering.
But I’m afraid there are more whose primary problem is not ignorance; it is selfishness and laziness. They know, either from past instruction or from their own conscience, that the Lord must be honored more on Sundays by them, but they refuse and neglect to dedicate and celebrate His day. Those need not only light, but heat; not only teaching but warning; not only truth, but loving pleading and prodding to get where they belong.
Now it is likely at this point that some are already defensive. Perhaps they are defensive because I couldn’t possibly know their particular sob story. They can’t make Sundays a priority. They just can’t change their schedule or they’re just doing what their parents want, etc. We’ll talk about that.
Others would say, Christians are saved individually. And I would agree, in some sense. But even if we agree that our relationship with Christ is personal, we cannot dismiss the fact that our relationship with the church is corporate. Students may be Christians by themselves, but every Christian is part of the church. Spurgeon called such disconnected Christians “good-for-nothing bricks.”
I know there are some who say, “Well, I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to the church.” Now why not? “Because I can be a Christian without it.” Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient? What is a brick made for? To help build a house. It is of no use for the brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick. So you rolling-stone Christians, I do not believe that you are answering your purpose. You are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live, and you are much to blame for the injury you do.
Still others are defenders of faith, in other words, they love to hunt Pharisees and legalists. They fight against anything that even hints like it’s a rule or an external requirement because after all, we’re saved by faith alone. They beat the drum that church attendance can’t save us and we all know that God cares most about the heart. Those students are afraid of formality and tradition and going through the motions and routine. Fair enough.
But what if God holds us responsible, not for missing church meetings or sleeping during sermons or being distracted from worship itself per se, but what if He holds us responsible for those things because they demonstrate that our hearts weren’t right? I agree that God is not most concerned about our attendance…He’s concerned about our heart’s attention! We don’t want to be Pharisees, but we also don’t want to be servants who are defiant to our Lord.
Over the next week or so I’m going to blog a brief series that I pray God would use like a pointblank fire hose to douse our selfishness and direct us and drench us with love for the Lord’s day.