Volume. XXIX, No. 41
Sunday, 12 April 2015


From the Pastors Heart: Church Attendance


A few weeks ago, I recommended you, especially men, to read a book, Disciplines of a Godly Man, written by Kent Hughes.  Though it is written for men, it is also helpful to ladies.  In this book, he deals with the topic of church attendance, which is a pertinent issue to the believers today.  I have met professing Christians who are spiritual nomads, who refuse to settle down in any one church, i.e., home church.  They are roaming around from church to church.  Thus, they are church goers and worshippers too, but they simply do not want to commit themselves to any particular local body of believers.  I personally think that they miss out on a lot of spiritual blessings.  They neither receive consistent Bible lessons nor enjoy long term Christian fellowship.  They do not submit themselves to any church’s discipline, which means that they will lose out opportunities for corrections of their wrongs.  They do not learn to commit themselves to any ministry.  Thus, they follow their own preferences and depend on their own personal judgments.  Of course, they do not follow the biblical pattern of Christian churches in the New Testament.  Their learning is pick-and-choose.  Thus, they stay in one church as long as they like to, and when they change their minds, they disappear.  Of course, no ministry can be built with such nomads.  I understand that it is not fair to blame them for such behaviors, because they must have their own reasons, very legitimate reasons, including unreliable Church leaders, wavering church teachings, and spiritual apostasy in general.  Despite all these excuses, I still believe that the Bible provides us with a very high view of local churches and church ministries.  It is desirable for the believers of Jesus Christ to find their home churches and to commit themselves to their ministries faithfully.  Kent Hughes aptly explained his thoughts about church attendance in his book.  I am going to quote a few sections from his book to highlight the points.  He said, firstly, about the current problems as follows:

 

“Church attendance is infected with a malaise of conditional loyalty which has produced an army of ecclesiastical hitchhikers.  The hitchhiker’s thumb says, ‘You buy the car, pay for repairs and upkeep and insurance, fill the car with gas - and I’ll ride with you.  But if you have an accident, you are on your own!  And I’ll probably sue.’  So it is with the credo of so many of today’s church attenders: ‘You go to the meetings and serve on the boards and committees, you grapple with the issues and do the work of the church and pay the bills - and I’ll come along for the ride. But if things do not suit me, I’ll criticize and complain and probably bail out - my thumb is always out for a better ride.’  This putative loyalty is fueled by a consumer ethos - a ‘McChristian’ mentality - which picks and chooses here and there to fill one’s ecclesiastical shopping list.  There are hitchhikers who attend one church for the preaching, send their children to a second church for its dynamic youth program, and go to a third church’s small group. Church hitchhikers have a telling vocabulary: ‘I go to’ or ‘I attend,’ but never ‘I belong to’ or ‘I am a member.’  Pollster George Barna supports this, saying: ‘[T]he average adult thinks that belonging to a church is good for other people, but represents unnecessary bondage and baggage for himself.’  So today . . . we have a phenomenon unthinkable in any other century: churchless Christians.  There is a vast herd of professed Christians who exist as nomadic hitchhikers without accountability, without discipline, without discipleship, living apart from the regular benefits of the ordinances. . . . The tragedy is compounded because statistics indicate that men are far less committed to the Church than women - inevitably producing a shriveled leadership.  As to why the Church has fallen on such hard times, historians tell us that an overemphasis on the ‘invisible’ Body of Christ by evangelical leaders produced an implicit disregard for the visible Church.” 

 

He argues that unchurched Christians are unbiblical.  He says, “membership in an invisible Church without participation in its local expression is never contemplated in the New Testament.  Another reason for the de-churching of many Christians is the historic individualism of evangelical Christianity and the grass-roots American [or western countries] impulse against authority.  The natural inclination is to think that one needs only an individual relationship with Christ and needs no other authority.  Such thinking produces Christian Lone Rangers who demonstrate their authenticity by riding not to church, but out to the badlands, reference Bible in hand, to do battle single-handedly with the outlaw world.  Such a cavalier disregard for the doctrine of the Church is eccentric, to say the least.  It disregards not only Scripture, but the consensus of the doctors of the Church. . . . Augustine could not conceive of one being regenerated yet consciously separate from the visible Church.”  It is important for us to know the general sentiment and understanding amongst the forefathers of faith about [visible] church(es).  For example, Augustine said “The deserter of the Church cannot be in Christ, since he is not among Christ’s members.”  Martin Luther similarly stated, “Outside this Christian Church there is no salvation or forgiveness of sins, but everlasting death and damnation; even though there may be a magnificent appearance of holiness. . .” (Robert H. Fischer, ed., Luther’s Works, Vol. 37, Philadelphia: Mullenberg Press, 1961, 368).  “John Calvin echoed Cyprian’s thought that the evidence of having God as your Father is having the Church as your mother.  In fact, he subtitled chapter 1 of book 4 of his Institutes “The True Church with Which as Mother of All the Godly We Must Keep Unity.” And in his commentary on Ephesians he wrote, “The Church is the common mother of all the godly, which bears, nourishes, and governs in the Lord both kings and commoners; and this is done by the ministry.  Those who neglect or despise this order want to be wiser than Christ.  Woe to their pride” (David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance, eds., Calvin’s Commentaries, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Philippians and Colossians, Volume 3, trans. T. H. L. Parker, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974, 181).

 

The Westminster Confession of Faith powerfully testifies of the importance of local churches in chapter 25.2 as following: “The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”  Especially, the last statement is even quite harsh as it says, “out of which [visible church, or local churches], there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”  Of course, it does not mean that going to church saves anybody.  It simply indicates that it is God’s design for the believers to be gathered to worship Him and to find His will in His churches [visible churches], because the church is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).  Acts 2:47 is significant in this regard: “Praising God, and having favour with all the people.  And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”  More and more people came to the Lord in Jerusalem through the apostles’ preaching ministry.  The Lord added these people to His church.  Thus, the saved came to the church in Jerusalem, and the church grew. 

 

I cannot say more words to what Kent Hughes has already said about Christian life than as follows: “The entire Christian life is about commitment - first and above all to Christ, but also to the Church, to family, to marriage, to friendship, to ministry.  None of these will ever flourish apart from commitment” (Kindle reading location 3103).  Settling down in one Bible believing home church is a matter of commitment.  Would you like to be a lone ranger or a member of a body of believers in a local church? 

 

Lovingly.

Your Pastor


More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

*Kitchen Roster - Leader: Today: Bro Raphael Ng. Next Lord’s Day: Bro William Song.

*Special thanks to Dr & Mrs Tedd Tripp, Dn Colin Gan, camp committee, helpers, & participants for making this family camp a blessed and edifying one.

*Extraordinary Congregation Meeting will be related to the sale of The Stone Mansion. Proxy forms available to members unable to attend. This meeting is  for members only.

*Basic Bible Knowledge, Adult Sunday School & Theology classes resume next Lord’s Day.

Praise & Thanksgiving

1. Journey mercies: Please refer to hard copy of Lively Hope.

2. Church activities,  in the past week.

3. Visitors & new worshippers.

4. God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.

5. Family Bible Camp - Dr Tedd & Mrs Margy Tripp, camp committee, helpers & participants; edifying messages.

Prayer Items

1. Health & God’s healing – Please refer to hard copy of Lively Hope.

2. Special Prayer: Rev Edward Paauwe; Mrs Janet Jara (Chile); Bro Tien Lee’s father (Penang); Bro XiHeng Wu (Jinan, China); Sis Yashu Qin’s father (Wuhan) & Sis Nita Chong.

3. God’s healing: Sis Wol Hee Kim & DaHee (S Korea). 

4. iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Melbourne.

5. Cambodia Missions - Rev David Koo & Ministry (Sihanoukville); Bro Liv Rotha & ministry (Kampot).

6. New Life BPC (London) - Encouragement for congregation. God’s guidance & provision of a pastor.

7. Providence B-P Church, Mawson Lakes - Ps David & Sis Susan Weng, & congregation.

8. Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.

9. Journey mercies: Please refer to hard copy of Lively Hope.

10. Health in pregnancy: Sisters Josephine Wong &  Emily Zheng.

11. Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.

12. Jobs: Those seeking for jobs in Adelaide.

13. Persecuted believers in Islamic & communist countries. This week: Iran, Morocco & Vietnam.

14. God’s guidance - Bro John & Sis Sally Tan & Li-Ern (Perth).

15. Mission trip to Japan: Sis Jillian Chia.

16. God’s guidance: Sale of The Stone Mansion.

 

 

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PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063