This coming Sunday we will be getting to the 24th chapter of Matthew and discussing the signs of the end that Jesus pointed out to the disciples.
We didn’t get there last Sunday as planned because as it turned out almost everyone was unable to attend, so we had a last minute cancellation. Which means, you haven’t missed Matthew 24.
I do want you to know that I try not to cancel our Sunday morning gatherings at the last minute, because I always feel like, What if someone comes to visit?
However, it was a holiday weekend and Steph was home caring for Payton who was recovering from her neck surgery, so at the last minute I made the call to cancel and put a note on the door, rather than wait to see if any visitors showed up.
Since we’re on the topic of church attendance, it may interest you to know that nearly all churches are facing low or lower attendance challenges since COVID-19 and especially in recent weeks, and I know that from other pastors and from those who are church members that I have talked with at the hospital.
Yesterday and today I have been taking advantage of a Calvary Chapel pastors conference through online live videos. I am hearing from these pastors and other pastors from traditional churches who are saying that 50% to 40% of their membership have not returned to in-person fellowship. One national statistic put that figure at 70% to 60% of church members are not returning to in-person services.
Why? I think there is a variety of reasons. The church members that I have spoken with at the hospital who are either patients or family of patients have mostly admitted that they have found it easier to stick with their current routine of “getting church online,” as one person told me.
Some have expressed their sincere fear of being exposed to COVID-19 as they have acknowledged avoiding vaccination and some have even expressed a more complicated fear of being exposed to those who are vaccinated.
There is a variety of opinions as to why those who once benefited from fellowship with a church body no longer attend a church congregation. There are some deeper theological reasons that survey’s aren’t picking up, like the misconception of what it means to be part of Christ’s church and an awareness of Satan’s efforts to divide unity in the church body.
At CrossHope Chapel, I think things are slightly different than the typical church congregation. While I think it is not necessarily a reason for alarm if fear prevents any of us from attendance — after all we are mortal human flesh and it is natural to guard one’s well-being — but I think we have built our fellowship around values that don’t pressure people to attend.
Our existence as a local church is not even built around our attendance or what that means to our budget. You may not know this but there has been several local churches here in Mobile that have permanently closed their doors because of these pandemic attendance changes.
I still believe in the value that doesn’t pressure people to attend, but I also need to recognize that Hebrews 10:24-25 decries making a habit of avoiding fellowship together. We may have seasons out of fellowship, but we certainly do not want those to turn into a lasting habit.
The passage says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV).
Growing up Catholic it was drilled in me to attend weekly mass because it was a “holy obligation.” It never really gelled in my mind that in a seven day cycle of one’s life, the emphasis was only a 45-minute Catholic mass as a “holy obligation” rather than a seven day emphasis on a holy obedience.
I think as long as we keep the focal point of Hebrews 10:24-25, which is to encourage one another, we’re doing fine, because although it is easier to encourage one another in-person, we can still do it through an email, a phone call, a text message, or by praying for one another, too.
At CrossHope Chapel we are also a little different than the typical church congregation in that we are a true simple church, our model of doing church is based on the New Testament essentials of Acts 2:42 which states “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (NIV).
In most ways we are like a house church that just so happens to meet at neutral location. When I think of a church meeting in a home, I think of informal and a relaxed non-intimidating environment that fosters an authenticity that a formal liturgical format can not.
By the way, in case you are wondering about why we do not have an online Sunday worship via live video, it is only because our Bible teaching time is interactive. So we would almost need a camera person to move around the chapel and a way to pass a microphone around to get the full effect.
In the past, I have done a YouTube video that was a brief recap of the teaching from the Sunday before, and I am not opposed to restarting those if there is an interest.
Anyway, I didn’t mean to get too deep with this post, but my point is if you knew or if you didn’t know that we did cancel last Sunday and we’ll get to Matthew 24 this coming Sunday.
See you then, and in the meantime I am praying for you and yours.