On Sunday morning a man lay sleeping soundly as his wife worked diligently to awaken him. “Come on hun,” she said. “Get on up before you make us late for church.” Finally through groggy eyes and a depressed tone the man said, “I don’t want to go today.” “You have to,” she replied. “I don’t like it there anymore,” he said. Ever so slowly he awakened and sat up, propped up on his pillow against the headboard of the bed. “Those people hardly even talk to me. The treat me horribly, and on top of that, they don’t like me very much.” “But hun,” she said, “You’re the preacher.”
Why is it that many people don’t like to go to church? Maybe a better way to ask this is, Why is it that many people don’t like to go to church more than they like going or doing something else? Why would someone rather sleep than be with the people of God? Why would they rather go fishing or hunting? Why would they rather sit at home and read the newspaper or a book? Why would they rather watch television or listen to the radio instead of being with the saints?
Some say they are selfish, and that’s probably true. Some say they are idolatrous. Maybe, but that’s kind of weak. Some say they are not committed. That has some merit. But, past all these things, what is the single element that would draw someone past all these things? Let me tell you a story.
Yesterday I was driving along a major highway in East Texas. I was pulling a trailer loaded with lumber and so cars were passing me by right and left as I struggled with the hills and the traffic. As I looked in the rearview mirror I saw a couple coming up behind me, and honestly, it was hard to tell which of them were driving the car. That lady was sitting so close to him that they could have shared the same seat belt. I grinned a bit because it just does something to me when I see people sit close. As the rear traffic came floating by the couple came up on my left side this couple came right up beside me. I glanced over to see this love nest first hand and my eyes like to have popped out of my head. He was driving with both hands firmly on the wheel, head straight forward and eyes glued to the road. She sat scrunched up with her hands in her lap, head straight forward and her eyes glued to the road. So what, you say? What got me was that the both of them were in their mid eighties if they were a day. They puttered on by and when they finally vanished out of sight they were still together. I do believe that this was the first time in my life I’d seen people of the older generation acting like newly weds. Probably… they were!
My heart leaped inside me. Seeing that sight brought a huge smile to my face and a chuckle from deep in my throat. I loved it. The first thing I thought was that when people really love each other, they like to be really close.
You want to know what’s wrong with people who don’t want to be with the saints when we meet? They don’t love me enough. It’s simple. When you love someone you want to be with them. The assembly is not just about being with the Lord. I can be with the Lord wherever I am. The assembly is about being with one another.
Now before the attenders start throwing too many rocks at the non-attenders, it may be that these people don’t feel loved enough to sit close. Most of the time when people are fighting and fussing they sit apart. You don’t expect to see a couple hugged up loving to be with and next to each other when they are at odds. It may be that we need to be more loving and concerned about one another to fix this problem. Guilt will not do it. I refuse to beg people to come to church. When you quit begging… they quit coming. On the other hand, if I offer something they can’t get out in the world, people will be drawn to assemble. I need to make my love more inviting than an eight pound bass. I need to show love in a way that it is more inviting than eighteen holes of golf. The love you share with your spiritual family needs to have a greater value and a greater draw than a good book, the newspaper or a television program. When you were dating you would do without sleep to be with the one you loved. Why doesn’t that work on Sunday?
If we want to see a change in church attendance we can do one of two things. We can quit loving each other and run all except the duty bound off. Or, we can love each other so deeply that the non-attenders, the sporadic attenders and the duty bound attenders would think of nothing else than to be with the people they love.
Who knows, we might even sit close.