This is a re-post of the fifth part of my ongoing blog series, Re-Thinking The Sunday Church Service. This series appeared in late 2008 to early 2009. For a brief explanation, click here.
And the eye cannot sat to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, it us much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness, whereas our seemly members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 1 Corinthians 12:21-25
My family has missed a lot of church over the last six months or so. We had some issues in our family - some that were church related in a way - that were extremely difficult, and it left us physically, emotionally and spiritually drained. We decided to take a month off from church because we simply needed the extra day of rest. We were also out of town maybe a couple of weekends, and we've all been hit with nasty colds and flu between some or all of us so that we've missed a number of more Sundays at church. Sometimes, we've stayed home with sick kids, or brought sick kids with us (not letting them attend, but sat with them outside). We may have missed more than a third of Sundays during this time; I can't count now.
In light of the above quote from the bible on the church meeting, I'm asking a question. If I miss church, am I missed at church? Does my presence matter? The passage makes it seem so. But is this the case only if abundant honor is bestowed upon me? Let's say, oh, about 238 people meet in the service on Sunday. If I'm missing, let's say, oh, about 237 people meet. Given the structure of the service - sitting down, standing up, singing, listening to the preaching, singing, listening to a prayer, going home - does one person missing make a difference? If I'm not there, does the rest of the congregation notice? Is one less voice during singing going to make a difference? Are two fewer ears listening to the sermon a big difference? Will somebody notice and say, "Hey, your presence was direly missed last week, and it affected our meeting. We really want to encourage you to be here next week, because we desperately need your caring, your gifts and your help"? If my experience is any clue, I doubt it. If my experience is reality, then, uhm, no.
As was pointed out in part 3 of this series, most people who attend church are passive. The pastor, the choir and maybe a few others do all the work, and the rest just sit there. Okay, there is singing, but like I asked above, is the difference between 238 and 237 going to make or break the worship of God? The pew sitters, it would seem from the passage I referenced at the top of this post, being less seemly in a great way, would have some kind of abundant honor bestowed upon them. But is this the case? I think not.
What is the difference between having your absence from church going completely unnoticed and some other member saying to you, "I have no need of you"? as is the case in the text? I can't see any difference. The passage claims that the minor players are cherished. Experience tells me that they are ignored or even dismissed. How did such a difference between God's word and reality come about? I'll discuss this more in upcoming parts to this series.