Here is the link for the original article: Those Toxic Non-Attenders
Commitment to the church is one thing in our Christian culture which seems to be utterly deficient. We live in a day in which church seems secondary. I do not mean this for the unbeliever but for those who profess to be in Christ and profess to be Christians. The Church is something many tack on and will give time to if something else such as homework or family matters will not get in the way.
The lack of commitment in our church culture is alarming to say the least. To many people are either content with coming every now and then, when it is convenient for them, or we are content with showing up on Sunday morning but neglect other matters of church life such as Bible studies or activities the church uses to foster discipleship and community. And there are some who are just content with not going to church at all but still claim to follow Christ and be a part of Him.
This is alarming. This is not what we see outlined in scripture. An article by Matt Schmuker, the executive director of Nine Marks Ministry, brought up many of these same concerns. His argument, which is worth noting, is that a lack of commitment to the church by those who profess to be members of the church, but never attend, “render membership in the body of Christ meaningless.”
He brings out one of the most common metaphors that scripture uses for the church: the Body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12:12 we read: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” Also in the same chapter in verse 27 we read: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a part of it.” In the article the author says: “Between these two verses, Paul exhorts the members of the church in Corinth to see themselves as part of the whole, in need of what every other member contributes.” In order to do this the believer must be committed to the church. If one part is messing then the whole body is messed up. “If Christians are detached from a church body, what you have is no longer a body, but scattered limbs.”
An example he uses in the article is in order here: “When I take the pendulum out of my grandfather’s clock, it can still do certain things, such as open sealed paint can lids. But that’s a mis-use of the pendulum. The pendulum (a part) was designed to fit inside the clock, join the other parts, and provide the weight to put in motion the cogs which turn the hands which allow us to tell time. That’s how Christians are meant to function within the body of Christ. A Christian who cuts himself off from a local body of Christians is like a pendulum opening a paint can, not a pendulum that makes a clock run.”
The effect this has is two fold. First off the person who is not committed to the Church is short changing themselves. There are so many things a believer can not adequately take a part of without the Church. Take for example the Lords Supper (Communion). When we see this in scripture it is done in the context of the body. It is a visible sign of God’s grace that was given to us by Jesus. Without the church you cheat yourself out of this.
Not only does this short change the uncommitted person but it also shortchanges the church which they neglect. In the article Schmucker puts forward four ways in which this hampers the local church the uncommitted effect.
The first effect is they make evangelism harder. The church is called to be “an outpost of God’s kingdom in your community, a small but meaningful display of God’s glory as you love one another and mature in Christ.” Those who claim to “bear the name of Christ” but they live their Christian life apart from the church, the messianic community are practicing “identity theft. They’ve taken Christ’s name, but they don’t honesty identify with his body the local church.”
They are a missing part of the body. They make it harder for the body to function as a whole. The uncommitted make it “more difficult for your church’s corporate life to bear witness to the gospel.” The church is called to spread the manifold wisdom of God (Eph.3) and if a believer claims to believe this gospel, but they neglect the body with whom the order to proclaim this gospel has been given where is the consistency in that? How can a church evangelize successfully when parts are missing? How can a church do this clearly when there are parts that are missing? They can of course still evangelize but it will be an uphill battle.
The second effect is that the uncommitted confuse new believers. New believers will invariably need good models while they are in the infancy of their faith in Christ. Schmucker says that those who are not faithful attenders and not committed to the church “are not only reverse-witnesses, they’re reverse-models.” He goes on to say: “ In their arrogance, non-attenders are effectively saying to new believers, “All of that stuff you’re reading in the Bible isn’t really necessary. You can live without the encouragement from other Christians. You can live without sacrificing yourself to serve and love other Christians. You can live without teaching and preaching. You can live without shepherds.”
The church is called to make disciples of all nations. That is the command Jesus gave in the great commission. If a church has those who are not willing to commit to being faithful to it making disciples will become tougher because the new disciple will be getting a mixed message.
Thirdly the non-attender, the uncommitted, discourage regular attenders. When part of the body is missing that creates more work for the parts of the body that are there. No matter which church you are in if there is only a handful of people who are faithful and do the work of the ministry they will more than likely be burned out.
This will lead to jealousy and sometimes being prideful. There is a temptation to say look at all the work I am doing and they will not even show up. It is tempting to think that way no doubt. But when there is a committed body and all parts of the body are working together there will be a unity and harmony like we would have never imagined could have been.
Lastly these people worry their leaders. When people are not at church or do not care about the activities which may grow the church this worries the leaders of the church. Hebrews 3:17 says: Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. The pastor is also called a shepherd. The shepherd is concerned when part of the flock is either missing or stops coming. “A good shepherd doesn’t rest until all his sheep are accounted for. Non-attenders makes this task nearly impossible.”
To close this section here is the closing paragraph of the article. “While time and courage are needed to address the problem of non-attenders, every pastor or elder should feel a burden to remove these no-shows and cure the toxic effect they have on evangelism, on new believers, on the faithful attenders, and on the church’s shepherds. The payoff? As the church’s membership increasingly consists only in those who faithfully attend and contribute to the life of the body, the church will begin to resemble the body God intended: a display of his wisdom that brings glory to the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ.”
Commitment to the Body of Christ
In our American culture commitment is lacking as a whole. We are not a very committed culture. Much to out detriment the church has allowed this aversion to commitment creep in slowly. So much so that when we form our thinking on the church we do it from what we want the church to be instead of what scripture reveals about the church. Of course we must use common sense as well and realize that it is next to impossible for some to be as faithful as they would like to be. These words are not directed at the person who is hospitalized and the one who is a shut in and physically can not get out.
We want to have a biblical view of the church and the reason we are committed to the church. To close here are two themes we see in the scriptures when it comes to the church. First we should be committed to the church because Jesus is committed to the church. In Ephesians 5:23 we read that Christ is the Savior of THE CHURCH, HIS BODY. We also read that Christ is the head of the church. Can the uncommitted really say Christ is their Savior or their head if they are not committed to what Christ is the Savior and head of?
As we keep reading in Ephesians 5 we read that Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (25). As the chapter goes on we read that Christ nourishes and cherishes the church, because we are members of His body (29-30). How is a Christian to be nourished and cherished if they are not committing themselves to the thing Christ nourishes and cherishes?
The church and Jesus are closely linked. So close that if one persecutes the church they are persecuting Jesus. In Acts 9 Luke records for us the conversion of Saul, who is the Apostle Paul. If you will recall Saul had authority from the religious establishment of the day to persecute and throw in prison those who were following the way, following Jesus. Saul breathing threats and murder against the disciple of Jesus (1). Saul was on his way to Damascus when a light from heaven flashed around him. Saul falls to the ground and hears a voice that says: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul replies and says who are you Lord? The answer he got was “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”
This is a little odd don’t you think? Saul was persecuting just the church right? He was persecuting the disciple of Jesus, the church. The church is so close in relationship to Jesus that when Saul was persecuting the church he was in actuality persecuting Jesus. If Jesus is so closely associated with the church how then can a person claim to be a follower of Jesus and not be committed to what Jesus is committed to?
First we want to be committed to what Jesus is committed to. Secondly it is next to impossible to fulfill the “one-another” commands we see in scripture apart from faithfulness and commitment to the church.
It is in order to look at some of the many here. Starting with the letters of Paul. In Romans 12:10 we read Love ONE ANOTHER with brotherly affection. In 2 Corinthians 13:11: Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort ONE ANOTHER, agree with ONE ANOTHER, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Again in Galatians 5:13: For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve ONE ANOTHER. As we tread through Galatians once again we read in 6:2 bear ONE ANOTHER’S burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
In Ephesians 4:2 and also 4:32: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with ONE ANOTHER in love…. Be kind to ONE ANOTHER, tenderhearted, forgiving ONE ANOTHER, as God in Christ forgave you. There are many others as we read the Epistles of Paul. What we must keep in mind is these commands were not written to INDIVIDUALS but to local churches and therefore we must read them with that context. Therefore it is impossible for a Christian to adequately obey these commands without connection to the church in a local body.
Paul is not the only New Testament writer who has these one another commands. We come to the book of Hebrews. We find the same thing going on. In 3:13 the author writes: But exhort ONE ANOTHER everyday, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. We find two one another passages in chapter 10; in 10:24 we read: And let us consider how to stir up ONE ANOTHER to love and good works. The thought continues in verse 25: 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. The teaching here is the proper place for true Christian encouragement is done within the context of the church. If you attempt to encourage without meeting with a local church and being committed to a local church the encouragement is misdirected and misguided.1
The list could go on. What is repeated throughout the New Testament is that there are certain things we can not do according to scripture outside of the context of the church. If we attempt to do such things without the church, even with the best of intentions, we are doing ourselves a disservice and the body is missing some of its necessary members.
Some may read the preceding words and think them to be legalistic. That is fine, although the truth of the matter is they are biblical. The church needs committed members. The church needs people who will let their commitment to Christ be evidenced by their commitment to the body of Christ the church. The desire of every Christian should be to desire the things that Jesus wants. The church is called the bride of Christ (see the book of Revelation, chapters 19 and 21). A husband defends his bride. Jesus Christ does that for the church. He defends her against assaults and persecution. When someone attacks the church they attack Christ. The two are inseparable and to claim the name of Christ while willingly denying the body, which He is the Savior of, is to spit in the face of Christ.
For the Christian commitment to the church flows from a commitment to Jesus. We can never honestly say that we are committed to Jesus if we are not committed to His body. My prayer, for myself, and all who read this is we would be committed to the body of Christ for the exaltation of Christ and the furthering of His saving grace as embodied in His life, death and resurrection.