Friday, November 10, 2017
The Best Way to Kill Worship Attendance
The Best Way to Kill Worship Attendance
A pastor greeted an infrequent worship attendee, “I didn’t realize it was Easter already.”
Pastors who use that kind of humor are offending people who offend God by not worshiping Him.
Which is worse?
Offending people who offend God by not worshipping Him or offending God by not offending people who do not worship Him?
Yep, the truth will set ‘em free; but may cut down on attendance and income.
Parenthetically, it’s obvious that lots of people don’t believe in eternal life; for if they did, don’t you think those pews would be full and things important to God like agape, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and…would be practiced more than pretended.
When I was an important pastor as defined by important pastors and idolizing pewsitters who confuse high steeples and ecclesiastical lifestyles that would make Solomon blush as the ingredients of importance, I was in a group of important pastors that would meet yearly in Malibu, California that would often include non-self-effacing tributes to our importance.
One pastor, far more humble than most and especially me, named George Callahan, who was a leading light in the Presbyterian Charismatic Communion and among the first to ask what the anything but heaven is going on in the franchise and other increasingly sideline denominations, preached a sermon that became a little booklet called God Commanded Tithing So Don’t Blame Me!
He said, “Jesus spoke more about money than any other subject, except for the Kingdom of God.”
Money is understood in the Bible and by common sense as among the best measures of who and what are important to us.
Rather, how we use/manage money is among the best measures of who and what are important to us.
Money, like all things including Facebook and cellulars and firearms and art and government and other human inventions, has no meaning until we attach ours to it.
If we want to know who and what are important to us, all we have to do is look at our checkbook stubs and plastic bill statements.
Of course, everybody knows lots of people dislike, resent, rebel, and sometimes yell when people bring up money in church.
You know how it goes: “I don’t want to hear about money in church…I don’t want to be told that I need to give money to the church…I don’t want to…I…I…I…”
Another subject for another day.
Getting back to money, it matters to people; and when it comes to bringing up money in church, it can cause a lot of guilt disguised as some kinda righteous indignation claiming church is no place to bring it up; which, as Callahan said and anyone who actually reads the Bible will discover, comes as a great shock to God who brought it up…a lot.
So the best way to kill worship attendance is to announce next week’s sermon will be about money; and if we really want to stir up the devil in people and kill worship attendance in succeeding services, talk about tithing when they come.
Yeah, a faithful herald will say, “I don’t write ‘em. I just read ‘em.”
But, again, if even churchy kinda people don’t pay much attention to what He says about agape, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and other things that are really important to Him, it’s really fake news to think people think sermons about money are in any remote way related to good news.
It’s a homiletician’s dilemma: tell ‘em what they wanna hear which ain’t always what He says they need to hear or tell ‘em what they need to hear but don’t always wanna hear and catch you know what for telling it like it/He is.
Parenthetically, again, I guess it all depends on what one believes about eternity. If a person really believes God’s in charge of here, now, and forever, that makes a big difference in how one handles what He’s revealed about Himself and what it means to behave like you believe in Him.
So about money.
There’s so much about it in the best apocalyptic resource – the Bible – available to us on who He is and what He expects from those who know who He is; so we’ll hit just a few pregnant verses.
1 Corinthians 16:1-4: “Now about the money to be collected to help God’s people…Each of you is to set something aside on the first day of the week…”
Money is an instrument to honor God by using it to help people.
Money is to be managed in ways that honor God by using it to help people.
Helping people is honoring God or honoring God by helping people is fundamental to a Christian’s job description: “As you do it for them,” Jesus said, “you are doing it for Me; and as you’re not doing it for them, you’re not doing it for Me.”
Malachi 3:8-10: “Will you rob God? You are robbing Me! You ask, ‘How do we rob You?’ You rob me by not tithing. The tithe comes to the storehouse so that there may be food in My house.”
Tithing is a Biblical word that means “tenthing” of all we are and have for God’s honor by helping God’s people or helping people to honor God.
A tithe – the least not most that we can manage/do for God – is 10% of our thought, time, treasures, and talent.
It’s the price of admission or getting into the game – proving we are on His side.
Tithing is one of the most significant and obvious measures of fidelity.
Referring back to an important disclosure, Ralph Cushman wrote in Dealing Squarely with God back in 1927 for believers who behaved like believers when it comes to using/managing money for God as obligatory not discretionary, “You can tell the sincerity of a man’s interest in anything by the way he puts his money into it.”
Tithing means we are serious about God.
Or as my old buddy George Callahan wrote in that awfully titled booklet, “If you are not tithing, you are ‘tipping’ God as you might tip a carhop or a waiter.”
Matthew 22:37-40: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself.”
God wants/commands/expects us to use/manage everything – emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, materially – for Him.
God expects us to be totally committed/devoted/dedicated to Him.
So anyone who says God isn’t really about tithing is right!
God doesn’t want 10%!
He wants/commands/expects 100%!
God wants/command/expects us to use/manage 100% of who we are and what we have for His glory, laud, and honor; and among the best ways to do that is to use/manage who we are and what we have to help people who need God through who we are and what we have.
Psalm 24:1: “The earth and everything in it belong to God.”
While that comes as a shock to capitalists, unions, school boards, Democrats, Republicans, denominations and their ecclesiastical elites, Fox, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, ACLU, NAACP, NOW, ESPN, and other social engineers operating on human over divine wisdom with their ever-threatening thought police dedicated to exterminating dissent and exorcising comment or contradiction – that’s a mouthful – the Apostles’ Creed begins with a fundamental truth that’s in their face: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”
God is Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior and not even the aforementioned can do anything about His providence in the end despite impotent attempts in the meantime.
When it comes to money, it means it’s not ours in the first/His place.
God entrusts money to us; allowing us to use/manage it for heavenly or…hellish…ends.
So, again, take a look at your checkbook stubs and plastic bill statements and see how you measure up/down.
Just like faith, “You can’t give away what you ain’t got for yourself.”
Paul was practical: “Be as generous as you can.”
Part of that urging includes the call to evaluate what we can give to the Lord’s house and for the Lord’s missions after taking care of the most immediate family responsibilities entrusted to us by God and confirmed by us in parental and congregational baptismal pledges.
I like how Charles Hodge explained it in his commentary on this text back in 1857: “Contributions were to be in proportion to the means of the giver.”
That’s why I’m always trying to soak the haves for the have-nots; or as Jesus said/warned, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”
A story comes to mind.
A fellah says to his pastor, “If I only had more money, I’d give more to the church; but I don’t have enough money. I can barely make ends meet…If I only had more time, I would do more for the church; but I have so much to do at work and home…If I only had more talent, I would serve the Lord; but I can’t sing or teach or do this or do that.”
According to the story, our Lord gave more money, time, and talent to the man; but the man did not use/manage the money, time, and talent to honor God. So, as God does sooner or later and definitely in the end, He took them back.
The man went to his pastor and said, “If I only had those things back, I would do a better job of using/managing them for God.”
The pastor said, “Just shut up!”
Dr. James I. McCord remains among the most faithful and brilliant men to ever cross my path. He was president of the seminary that I attended and president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches when it stood for Someone.
He often talked of the young Scot who told his pastor, “I’m fed up with the church and Christianity. All I ever hear is, ‘Give, give, give.’”
The pastor fixed his eyes on the young man and said, “Well, can you think of a better definition of Christianity than give, give, give.”
McCord explained: “The Christian doctrine of stewardship is rooted in the gospel itself. The gospel begins with a gift…Jesus…It continues with a claim on the lives of those who respond to this gift.”
Or as Calvin wrote, “We are not our own…We are God’s…to Him, therefore, let us live and die…We are God’s. Towards Him, as our only legitimate end, let every part of our lives be directed.”
Talking about tithing, stewardship, checkbook stubs, plastic bill statements, and money may not be the best way to beef up worship attendance, but it is among the best measures of who will be attending the big banquet in the end.
Blessings and Love!
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!