Once upon a time, being a faithful Baptist church member meant attending the following: Sunday School and worship on Sunday mornings; Disciple Training (or Training Union or Baptist Young People’s Union-- based on your generation) and worship on Sunday night; and midweek activities on Wednesday—usually a fellowship meal and auxiliary activities like prayer meeting, program organizations, etc. Of course, if you were a deacon, member of the choir, a committee member, or on a softball team, the hours continued to stack up.
Times have changed.
I serve as Adult Division Director of the Sunday morning Bible Study program in our church. As a result, I regularly see reports of attendance. As I look over these, I see that some of our most committed people, individuals that I would identify as Christian disciples, are not in Bible study every Sunday. If they are not at Bible study, they are probably not in worship. We don’t have Sunday night activities and Wednesday night programs draw a much smaller percentage of participants than Sunday morning activities.
My somewhat unscientific appraisal is that some of most committed people are only in the church building twice a month. My response: Get used to it!
You might think that I am too forgiving but consider the following:
- Even though someone is not there every Sunday, he or she is probably connected to an affinity group—a Bible study class—through phone calls, social media, and regular group activities. This group provides fellowship and ministry throughout the week.
- Many are involved in volunteer mission and ministry activities on a regular basis. Some are serving in not-for-profit settings.
- A number are couples, single parents, and grandparents who are raising children and attempting to model the Christian walk for their children. When their children are not in church, they are Christian educators for them.
- They are business people, tradespeople, educators, professionals who are being the body of Christ wherever they are. The are on mission where they are.
In short, they are living out their discipleship outside the walls of the church. Rather than bemoaning the fact that these disciples are not in the pew on Sunday morning, we should celebrate the times when they are present and focus on encouraging and empowering them.
This is the new normal.