Labor Day Weekend . . . if I wasn’t the pastor I am not sure that I would go to church tomorrow.
I suspect by now that I would be wherever people go on these long weekends. That’s sort of like the missing sock and the dryer. You know you put two socks in . . . but only one can be accounted for. But dagnabbit, I am the pastor. I will be in church, half-depressed over the empty pews.
Once upon a time it was different. You could just make people feel guilty. You could appeal to their sense of loyalty to the local church and get some people to forego another weekend away and they’d be there. Of course there is only one thing worse than empty pews and that is empty hearts, . . . people sitting in church who really want to be somewhere else. “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.’”
What I am about to say does absolutely nothing to make me a “successful” pastor. “. . . Rules taught by men” is what Isaiah calls it, in the scripture that I just cited. Maybe that’s the reason that people want to be somewhere else on Sundays. That’s what “worship” has become. Weak, anemic suggestions, cloaked in spiritual language, that has reduced the God of the universe, to some cosmic bean counter who takes attendance on Sunday mornings so that pastor can look better in the places where pastors gather to “strut their stuff”.
Can’t do it!!!
I know where my people are . . . they are where God is . . . in the Grand Sanctuary . . . and they are worshipping. Not to the sounds of an organ or drums or guitar but perhaps to the sounds of the laughter of their children or some good honest communication with the spouse who finds a few stress free hours away from the busyness of the everyday schedule. I suspect that God meets people there in those times and places. I also suspect that there is a dialogue that take place between those folks and God . . . and perhaps even spiritual transactions that transpire, . . . some more meaningful and less measurable than the number of bums in the pews and dollars in the plates. Be free brothers and sisters. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
But whenever we can, let’s see if there is a work that we can do together. Let’s see if we can communicate a great message to people who are so tired of rules and regulations. I am one of them.