17 October, 2005

What's the Grade Scale?

Everyone who has ever studied in college remembers this question: "What's the grade scale?"
It never failed, the first day of every class, someone was going to ask this question; and it usually would come within the first 3 minutes of the beginning of class.
The funny thing is that usually the one who asked this was the person who really wanted to know, "How bad can I do and still pass this class?"
What they really were really trying to discover was could they goof all semester, show up to class once in a while and still somehow manage to get a passing grade and credit for the class. Oh yes, in truth we were all wanting to know what the grade scale was so that we knew what was expected and were we stood, but we were going to give it our best, no matter what. But in every class there was always that one person (maybe more) that was trying to scrape by on the skin on their teeth. Funny how so many of those people dropped out of a lot of classes after that first day and somehow found themselves in Basket Weaving or Golf 101. I always found it amazing how people I had not seen for weeks showed up to class when ever test days rolled around. When they bombed the test, they would usually have a fit about how hard the test was, and they would either rush off to their advisor to drop the class, or they just might show up for the next week or two, hoping to do better on the next exam... but they would usually disappear again in a few days, only to reappear the next scheduled day for exams.

Isn't it odd how this same mentality is found in the church? You will find them in every church, although you may need to wait around for three to five weeks before they show up again, but I promise you, they are there in every church. They are the one who come in every now and then, usually when they are going through trials (tests). Or maybe they just happen to realize that they need to get the family back to church. They really mean well, and they want to make it to heaven, but they still have not discovered that it is not about going to church. They're the one's who had every intention of going to church on Sunday morning, but later tell the pastor, "But it sure is hard to get up on Sunday morning when I work the rest of the week."
They meant to come Sunday night... but since they slept in and missed the morning service, so they decided to make it a family day and by the time they went shopping, to the lake or some other place, "there just wasn't time to get ready... and we were too tired anyway."
They planned on coming Wednesday night, but "you know, there are just so many things going on all week... well, we've got to have ONE night for ourselves pastor!"
And so it goes, one service missed... a week, two... now three... and it hits them, "Oh, maybe we should go to church tomorrow." And they come, they enjoy the worship, are fed by the Word and feel good about themselves, and they think, "Let’s do this again!" They come for couple of weeks in a row, but once they have been revved up a bit they begin to think, "I deserve a day off" and the cycle begins again and they disappear again for a few more weeks. You would never convince them of this, but they are just like that person who asked, "What's the grading scale?" Their action (or in-action) speaks clearly. It says, "How little can I do and still get into heaven?" Some get really bold about it and insist on trying to convince the pastor and anyone else who will listen that you really don't need to be there every week. They want others to know that everything is just fine in their lives and there is nothing to worry about. They might even go so far as to convince others just how spiritual they are with their liberty to not be "bound to the church."

Call me silly, or maybe even legalistic... some might even say my faith is weak.. but I need to be in church on a regular basis.
Truthfully, I WANT to be in church more often.
It is not just a need to thing, but I have a burning desire to be in the house of worship.
Take away my opportunity to be in the House of God on Sunday and my whole life is out of sync that week.
Take away the fellowship of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I feel isolated and lonely.
Take away the corporate worship, and I notice that my private worship begins to falter before long.
Take away the spiritual manna that I receive and feed on and I notice that I begin to get spiritually weak, all of a sudden and thoughts, ideas, attitudes and words creep into my life that don't belong and I get frustrated at what I find myself becoming.
We were made to worship God, and when you take that out of the equation, there is a void, with a vacuum created that will suck something else into the place that belongs to God and we find ourselves in a miserable state of being.

What is the grading scale?
Well, fortunately, I don't set it. Only the Lord gives the grade.
But we all need to be aware that there are no A's or B's... it is either pass or fail. There is nothing in-between. You either make it, or don't.
Just because you make every service does not mean you pass, no more than missing every service means you fail. You don't get points for good service or extra credit for some good deed. It all boils down to one factor: Did you make Jesus the Lord of your life? That doesn't mean you said a prayer or cried some tears, but rather that you surrendered your life over to Christ completely.
His will, his ways, his desires... all the time.
Nothing more... Nothing less will do.


michigan preacher said...

Darrell, a little convicting, since I didn't make evening service last night! But, that is a rare thing. But you're right on, it does come down to a surrendered heart. Gotta say, though, I did miss the fellowship last night.

Darrell said...

MP, you have nothing to feel convicted about over missing a service. I often tell my people that we should not be so legalistic about attendance. There are times occasionally when you should miss. The key, that many miss is "occasionally." If someone is fighting the flu, they need to use common sense and stay home. If a rare opportunity comes up to do something or go somewhere, I think it is fine to miss a service. The type I was referring to in this post are the ones that find a reason to miss church more than they actually attend.

Darrell said...

Someone sent me an email after I posted this and asked me a question about the church where I pastor.
I answered them already, but the more I have thought about it, the more I felt I needed to address it here.
The question was, "What percentage of our congregation is absent every week?"
Of course it fluctuates, but it would be very safe to say that on the average Sunday morning, 1/4 to 1/3 of our "regulars" are absent. That is a pretty telling number to me.

michigan preacher said...

I try not to get legalistic over this kind of stuff. I guess the conviction was more self-generated, because I missed the fellowship, and ministry to those who were there. I know God isn't holding it over my head.

Henry Haney said...

I wonder how much of this is a symptom of the last days? It seems like things are getting worse and people are "growing cold" much more quickly than they used to. It's funny that you posted this today because I was thinking to myself and asking this question "how much loyalty does the average Christian have towards his/her church." I'm starting to believe it's about like a grocery store. If there's a good sale at the store down the road or a "triple coupon" special- they're long gone. Hmmm....reminds me of another scripture "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God."

Ok- I'll hush now...