After a busy and emotionally draining weekend of taking Ashley off to college then church, I have to confess that I was sorely disappointed at the number of people who were missing from church on Sunday. I try not to let the number have any effect on me, but it does. No since denying that fact. One of my "spiritual fathers," W.C. Ratchford had a great way of illustrating this. He would say that it is like a mother who spends a week preparing for a day in which her children were all coming home to be together under her roof again. She plans out a great meal, goes shopping to find all the pieces of that meal, and then spends hours preparing and cooking the meal, sets the table and lays out all the food... only to find that half the family says, "no thanks, I'm not hungry" and won't even come to the table.
That is precisely the discouragement and pain that the pastor feels when he prays, seeking the face of God, studies and prepares the message for his family... only to find that a part of the family simply did not come to the table. I know, most people in our churches will simply get defensive about that statement and present their litany of excuses, but those excuses do not in any way negate the pain and disappointment. This is clearly expressed in the Word of God where the writer of Hebrews penned the words, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 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." (Hebrews 10:24,25) The thing is, very few will ever consider the Pastor when reading or discussing this verse. I have a private messaging board where most of my members are pastors, and just about every week, there is one or more pastors come on the board, a safe place, where members cannot see or read their pain, and express their frustration and heart break about how so many of their people did not come on any given Sunday. No one seems to really comprehend the hurt that comes when you have spent literally 10-15 hours in prayer and study to prepare a "meal" only to find that a huge portion of the church simply did not come. They are too busy with life, and rather than come to the table, they will hit up a fast food drive through, by turning on the TV and watching the TV preacher instead. Selfishly, they feel content in the knowledge that at least they were fed somewhere, but they do not consider that their own pastor has been wounded by their rejection. Paul said to "consider one another," yet few ever consider the pastor. They fail to even think about how it must feel when time after time, week after week, anywhere from 15-35% of the "family" fails to come for Bible study or worship. They use the justification that they can pray, study and worship at home... but that is totally "self" focused and not considering the pastor or the other members of the body who recognize that part of the body is missing. Yes, it hurts the other members when part of the family is gone. Ever been to a family gathering and some of the family were not to make it? It's just not the same. I was chatting online last night with a friend who is a pastor and discussing this. He shared with me how that at his church they have around 80 in Sunday school every week, but about 20 of his people leave before the worship begins and that another 10-15 leave after worship, including some of his praise team. He said, "this is the ultimate slap in the face, as they come to do their thing, but walk out just as he is about to preach." Again, they only focus on self, not considering others. I wonder, have they ever thought about how that makes the pastor or the others that they are walking out on feel? Probably not, as this is pretty common in churches from my talking with pastors.
Where is the "consider one another" in this approach to church life?
I was thinking on this earlier this morning when one of my Facebook friends posted the above mentioned scripture... and it hit me. Whoever the writer of Hebrews was, expressed very early on in the history of the church that the same issue was happening way back then. It is not a "new" trend at all... It's just people being people. I pray that at some point people begin to consider others. Evidently the Father had some strong thoughts on this topic, for He included it in the Bible as a warning and instruction to His church.