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Faithful Attendance

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

Extremism about Attendance?

Shelby Camp, Lewis, Roman, Kinley (l-r)

I heard this question from someone last week: “Do you really think that taking children to a second worship service on Sunday in a congregation where you don’t regularly attend should be a priority over spending quality time with a close family member?” I’ve thought about that a lot. 

The answer is “yes.”  A simple yes. Quality time in corporate worship of the One who sustains us is always more important than spending that time with any human being or in any material effort. But the important and overarching truth is that children need consistency. They need to see consistency in our ordered lives for the Lord, above all. They need to see, over and over and over again, that every single time the saints are assembling at regular times, we are there. They need to expect this and they do not need to see exceptions made for schedules that can easily be altered to accommodate the consistent pattern they’ve come to observe in our families. It takes something pretty big for our families to give consent to miss school, tournaments, performances and activities that have involved a lot of financial investment. How much more should parents take advantage of this extremely tangible and obvious display of devotion to God? As a matter of fact, when they see us making an extreme effort to be at every service or make a provision for a worship time when traveling, in lieu of the one we are missing in our home congregations, they are even more impressed at how important the spiritual things are in our hearts. They understand that every relationship pales into insignificance compared to the one we have with the Father we adore. They understand that every activity is in the background of, and is influenced by the commitment we have to our older Brother. They come to know that, in a world that rushes and presses our schedules, “there’s a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God.”  They know. They see.

My friend Shelby Camp had a tiny newborn in the NICU on a ventilator on a Sunday morning last spring. She and her husband Billy made the decision to go to worship God on that day instead of going to the hospital. She said this: “Why would we go to the hospital, where we can do nothing, when we can go and worship the One who can do anything?” 

She said it all. 

Going to worship as a matter of course is not extremism. It’s Daniel praying in the window toward the holy city. It’s a staunch commitment to never change the course of our sanctified lives because there’s an inconvenience or even a threat. Daniel could have reasoned it was way more important to continue his work for God’s people, in a land given over to idolatry than it was to bow in front of the window. He could have hidden to pray in an inner chamber. But it was matter of course and his example still talks, from a den of lions, to our families today. 

Bless Your Heart by Cindy Colley

“Wednesday nights are just not do-able…”

It’s a phrase I’m hearing a lot from young mom’s lately. “Wednesday nights are just not do-able in this season of our lives.” Of course the reference is to the assembly of God’s people that happens in the middle of the week. It’s usually, but not always on Wednesday evenings after the work day is done and there are usually Bible classes for the little ones and, at the congregation where I attend, there’s rich fellowship and a ladies prayer group and a ladies class and so much more. I’d hate to think I’d have to do battle with the devil for the rest of the week without the boost that this family time gives me. 

But what about those who are in the season of life when the littles are needing to get in bed before 8:30? Supper’s got to fit in the schedule somewhere, the workday for the breadwinner makes for a time crunch between quitting time and class time. Sometimes there may be two breadwinners and there may be a lot of school, sports, theater, and other extra-curricular activities scheduled for that afternoon, even for elementary aged kids.  Plus, there’s the homework for children who, in the early grades of school, are already tired when the carpool winds down in the afternoon. And toddlers are not always very gracious and deferential when schedules become tight. 

I know it’s hard. But I want to say it is just that: HARD. To say it is not do-able is just not accurate. I watch the busiest of families with multiples do it each Wednesday. When I walk in a few minutes before seven, I enter though the fellowship hall where invariably I see families who’ve picked up (or packed) supper and are eating together on site before going to class. Kids are playing together in this large room while moms are cleaning up the “picnic”. Older women are hanging out there too and holding babies and offering support. Lots of families now bring pajamas in the diaper bag and you see kids changing into those on pews after class, so they can fall asleep after Bible time in the car on the way home. 

Let me tell you what these kids are learning. There are two three-year-olds I know who can recite all the books of the Bible. There’s a four-year-old who recently sang the book of James from memory. There are lots of elementary aged kids who can give you an overview of every book of the Bible (some pre-schoolers, too). This week my three-year-old Colleyanna came home excited about Zaccheus and five-year-old Ezra was able ti give me the details of the feeding of the five thousand. They had little crafts that reminded them of these details and they wanted these on the refrigerator. But, most importantly, what they have learned is that God’s will and work is the most important business to which their families attend.  

Because, you see, there will be another season one day. It will be a season of amazing teenage distractions. There will be huge and glaring contradictions in their arenas of ethics and morality. There will be endless invitations to parties and temptations to participate in the things that will ultimately damn their souls. There will be academic challenges that will lure many of them them from faithful attendance and, in the end, from a relationship with God. There will be big tests at school and even bigger tests of faith in a world that mocks it. In the most diligent of homes, there may be times when your children notice inconsistencies between your profession and your practical daily living. This season is coming. 

But it doesn’t take a smart mom to figure out that the child who saw her do very HARD things weekly just because the Lord’s work was paramount in her world, is better prepared to do HARD things when the season changes. Building spiritual muscles for the heavy-weight temptations the devil hurls will not be done in overnight therapy when that season has come. Spiritual muscles are in training in the fellowship hall before class and on the pew when the pajamas are going on. It’s happening in the class when the teacher is singing about who “came to class” and when the kids are playing in the auditorium, while dads are talking with each other and moms are in the prayer group meeting—praying for the futures of souls that will one day be placed permanently in one of two destinations. 

Someone has said that the problem with the living sacrifice of Romans 12 is that a LIVING sacrifice keeps crawling off of the altar. May I just say that the display of practical weekly priorities is a big sacrifice-binding cord that you really do want to have in place. 

Now, I know we could go to Hebrews 10:25 and I believe that our Wednesday meeting would be an appropriate application of that passage, particularly when elderships have set up these assemblies for the feeding of our souls. The passage commands  something practical about our assemblies together and our faithfulness to them, for sure. But I would postulate that our love for the times of study and fellowship (and for the Lord, who is the centerpiece of those times) should motivate us to WANT to be at the midweek assembly.

We could also compare the importance of all of the competing activities with the assembly of the saints in the middle of the week. Lots of times we let the loudness of the urgent, but temporal things get our attention while we ignore the whispers of the eternally important things. In a hundred years it will not matter one iota whether or not your child succeeded academically. It will not matter if he excelled at football or soccer. It will not matter whether she took ballet or gymnastics or had swim lessons. But it will matter a great deal whether or not he/she learned that spiritual matters are the most important matters of life. It will matter if he/she grew up with a determination to do HARD things for the One who did the hardest thing for us. 

Even while writing this, I’ve talked with two moms whose children have moved to another season of life at universities–in these cases, even Christian universities.  The devil is trying hard, in each case, to erode convictions of godliness. Both of these godly mothers are very thankful, even while they don’t know the outcome of these challenges, that they did not compromise these priorities as their children were growing up.  This knowledge is their protection now from deep regret.

Every season is the season for sacrifice. And the living is not a sacrifice (Romans 12:1,2) if we aren’t doing HARD things. Let’s not confuse “not do-able” with “difficult”.