Back to school, back to church

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That was a fast summer, wasn’t it? Where did June and July go?

I’d love to stretch summer out a few more weeks, yet the school calendar beckons and we start another year. Pastors love to see school resume because vacationing members hopefully settle back into regular church attendance and participation.

That’s a good thing because your church needs you and your family needs church. Your presence, involvement and support are important. You are nurtured and your church family is blessed when you attend each week.

Unfortunately, church attendance is becoming more sporadic as society changes, commitment lessens, and other pursuits push church responsibilities down the priority list.

At a conference I attended in June, one presenter said the latest studies indicate attending three out of eight Sundays is now considered “regular.” Three out of eight Sundays? Would that pattern be considered faithful?

How do you define faithful? One pastor explained it this way: “Just apply the same standards to church attendance and involvement that we apply to any other areas of life. Is that too much to ask?”

For example, if your car started one out of three times, would you consider that dependable? If your paper carrier skipped Monday and Thursday, would it bother you? If you didn’t show up at work three or four times a month, would your boss consider you faithful?

If your refrigerator quit for an entire day now and then, would you say, “Well, it works most of the time?”

If your water heater greets you with cold water one or two mornings a week, would it be faithful? If you missed a couple of mortgage payments each year, would your mortgage company say, “Well, ten out of twelve isn’t bad?”

Yet, church membership is more than showing up. In I Am a Church Member, Thom Rainer writes, “(God) placed us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give, and, in some cases, to die for the sake of the gospel.

“Many churches are weak because we have members who have turned the meaning of membership upside down.” Is the church here to help me, or am I here to help the church? The answer is “Yes!”

Rainer suggests six pledges he encourages members to take to make your church stronger:

First, because I am a member of the body of Christ, I will be a functioning member. Both you and your church benefit when you belong, support, encourage, serve, give generously, pray, attend and demonstrate dependability. Churches are as strong as their members are supportive.

Second, I will seek to be a source of unity in the church. How well do I protect the unity of my church? Am I a gossip? When gossip comes my way, do I enable the gossiper by listening? There are no perfect churches, pastors, staff or church members. However, unity is a choice and must be protected.

Third, I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires. Imposing one’s personal preferences creates stress and rifts in the church.

Fourth, I will pray for my pastor every day. His work is never ending, and measuring effectiveness is difficult. How do you measure what God is doing in someone’s life as result of your pastor’s ministry?

A pastor cannot serve God’s church in his own strength without eventually burning out. He needs your prayer. For what do you pray?

*Pray for your pastor’s marriage and family, and for quality family time.

*Pray for your pastor’s devotional life. Remind your pastor to feed and nourish his soul outside of sermon preparation. Allow him to get away and worship occasionally in another church where he has zero responsibilities.

*Pray for your pastor’s health and safety.

*Pray for wise decision-making and time management.

*Pray for his friendships. Pastoring can be very lonely.

*Pray for a restful day off.

*Pray for strength from temptation. People forget that pastors are human and face the same temptations they face.

*Pray for his witness.

Fifth, I will lead my family to be good members.

Sixth, I will be grateful for the gift of membership. This is Christ’s church, and it’s a joy to belong.

(Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, GA. The church family gathers at 352 McDonough Road, just past McCurry Park, and invites you to join them for Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m. Visit them online at www.mcdonoughroad.org and like them on Facebook).