Until he retired in 2002, my dad was a railroad man. As I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, he worked in the city 90 miles from where we lived, driving back and forth every night. His weekends were unusual—typically Tuesday and Wednesday—and he worked nights. This was hardly a 40-hour-a-week job as it was often fraught with late trains and mechanical problems requiring overtime. When he was at home he slept about four hours a day, and spent a good chunk of the rest of his time building various carpentry products to supplement his income.
For most of my childhood, dad didn’t go to church on Sunday mornings, mainly because he got home around the time the service started and needed sleep. He did, however, almost always make it to Sunday nights and Wednesday nights and the rest of the family was there with him. Church mattered.
I hear people talk about being too busy, they just can’t make it every Sunday. They show once a month, maybe twice a month. When I meet these people I’m left to roll my eyes (after all, the bar for me was set pretty high). It’s not like we have that one service only and if you can’t make it at that time then you’re just out of luck. People make time for the things that matter to them. Even busy people can and do find time for church if it matters.
And if we call ourselves followers of Jesus, church should matter. It is, after all, Jesus’ body. Can we be devoted to and love him if we aren’t devoted to and love his body? I think not.
With this, in Hebrews 10 the author looks to the things that the blood of Jesus has bought for us—confidence to enter the holy place (as a now holy people), full assurance to draw near to God, and a sure confession of hope that comes from the One who is faithful to his promises. And then he says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (10:24-26, ESV).
Obviously in the early church they had the same problem we see today: some are in the habit of not meeting together. And what are they missing, aside from a place in corporate worship? They’re missing the opportunity to be challenged to live the faith—to live out love and good works, and they’re missing the opportunity to challenge others to the same. They’re also missing the encouragement that we all need to remain faithful and to flee from sin (Hebrews 3:13), as love on the earth grows cold and we race towards the end (Matthew 24). They’re missing the opportunity to serve and be served, and isn’t that what being the body is all about?—building each other up for the glory of Jesus (Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12).
At one of the churches I’ve worked in, to be a member in good standing (i.e. to be able to vote at business meetings, after all that’s what being a member in good standing is all about—right?) all you have to do is write to the church twice in a year…not even show up, just write. And we wonder why people aren’t more faithful and don’t take it seriously!
So what makes being a good member?
One lady answered: they should at least show up twice a month. I think that’s being very, very generous, and still misses the point of church. But here we do run into a little bit of subjectivity and can’t get too legalistic (you have to be there every time the door is open!)…
I define a good member as being one who is at least at one corporate service a week, involved in at least one small group a week, and actively ministering to/serving others in some form; unless certain mitigating circumstances apply—obviously bad health might keep a person home-bound or in a nursing home; or military service might take them away from home, family, and church for a time (heck, I’ll even grant the occasional vacation as a grounds for missing a week or two, but doesn’t it seem like some people have a lake vacation every other weekend?)
So what say you—since church attendance mattes what makes a good member?