My good friend Ron Williams preaches for the Lincoln Church of Christ in Huntsville. He tells the story of a lady who was a member where he formally preached. She rarely attended worship anymore saying that she was “under the weather” and just couldn’t get out any longer. Ron then tells of bumping into this lady one Saturday at a shopping outlet many miles from home. He was hopeful that she would be present the next morning but as Ron relates: “something drastic happened to her from that Saturday afternoon to the next day on Sunday at the worship hour. Sadly, our church member must have suffered a relapse (a setback or another weakened condition perhaps) and was absent from the Lord’s House and the Lord’s people again.”
We emphasize, along with Ron, that our goal is not to demean those who absolutely cannot attend. But we note that some seem to do very well all week and are able to attend every ball game, visit every shopping center and eat at every restaurant on the Eastern Shore but suddenly become ill on Sunday morning. Could it be that these people have made a choice not to attend? I think it is likely.
The transforming power of Jesus Christ flows through his word which, as Paul writes, renews the mind (Romans 12:2). Common everyday people are actually changed – not by smooth words from the preacher but by the application of God’s word to our lives. Absence from the presence of sound preaching hurts that renewal, it stunts Christian growth.
The woman or man who is habitually absent from worship is depriving the Lord of worship appropriately due him. While it may be possible to avoid the notice of your brothers or sisters, God above knows the reality of our absence and is not pleased.
Consider the word “commune” as used in 1 Corinthians 10:16 (KJV). The idea is of a joint participation or sharing in the body of Christ. The apostle notes this joint exchange of fellowship when he writes: “Since there is one bread, we, who are many, are one body; for we all partake of the one bread…”(1 Corinthians 10:17). How, my friend, can you commune in absentia? We would encourage you again join with us, participate in the body of Christ and build us up while renewing your own mind.
You, dear brother, are needed to “provoke” your fellow brethren to “love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). The Hebrew writer was powerfully clear when he said that we are not to “forsake the assembling of yourselves together as the manner (habit) of some” was (Hebrews 10:25). We would ask you to return to our number thus encouraging others and avoiding the sin of forsaking.
Failure to attend indicates a failure of transformation. That is, you have not yet been fully changed by the power of Jesus Christ. Perhaps the reason is because you have not yet fully exposed yourself to the Bible study and preaching that can change lives. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” James writes (James 4:8). He can and will change your life, soften your heart and take you to glory.
We echo what Jonathon said to David in 1 Samuel 20:18; “You will be missed, because your seat will be empty…”