Apr 10, 2010

Worship (Third in a Series on Revisiting 2005 Goals)

A few weeks ago I ran across a piece that I wrote titled “Some Things to Ponder in 2005.” We ran that article as a response to those who had asked me to record my personal goals for our church mentioned in that week’s sermon. Now five years later I have gone back to see how we have done. In evangelism we have been okay meeting our arbitrary goal of 150 new church members two out of the five years. Yet we are on track to realize this self-imposed goal with a new group of folks and under Rev. Valendy’s capable leadership.

In terms of our mission goal with the “One Mile Mission” and our “Go the Second Mile” we have all the missional direction we need to continue to push our best piece of ministry forward. Michelle Clark continues to inspire our congregation and offer solid leadership with her passion for reaching out and helping our church connect with our immediate community.

Thus for today I want to revisit the third of my personal goals for 2005 now that it is 2010. Our worship is solid but has too few people participating for the size of our church. Some of the reason is that many of the people I have celebrated funerals for were immovable about attending worship. We have not replaced with new attendees these several hundred people. It seems that in our modern culture worship is not as essential as it once was. Maybe an implosion of a stadium kept some away; maybe it was a soccer tournament; maybe it was a vacation; perhaps it was brunch with our Sunday school class. Whatever the reason, worship is not as vital to us as it once was—and this hurts the Body of Christ here known as FUMC, Arlington.

I once heard Fred Craddock say something to the effect that in our world today the “criteria questions” used by people to decide whether or not to do something were these:

Will my friends be there?
Will I have fun?
Will I make some money?

If there are any “no” answers to these three questions then the person will not chose to participate. I would hope that we might understand worship as the time that the church most fully “gets together.” This means that we put aside the “utility aspects” or “functional facet” of fun and money for an hour. Rather we sing and pray and listen as people who want to become friends with our fellow church members and believers in worship.

We in worship practice perhaps internally what it means to be a church. We cannot offer to others what we ourselves have not received. Someone ask me recently why I couldn’t get more people to attend worship. Curious, I discovered that over the past decade our worship attendance has not been much better or much worse than it is now—with the exception of course of the people we have lost to death and miss very much.

I hope and pray that we as a church (the whole assembly) address this worship issue and not simply lay it at the feet of someone else. We as a church need to accept our part of our own historic vows to support the church with our prayers, PRESENCE, gifts, service, and witness. This issue of worship attendance is our issue as a church. Historically we have performed remarkably poorly in this area of being stewards of our worship presence. We are much stronger as a congregation when guests and visitors sense that worship is important to the life of our congregation. And of course, saying this, the wrong 1000 people usually hear or read this news—and for that I apologize.

On a brighter note our worship numbers for Easter this year were strong as we compare them with previous years:

2005 2081
2006 1947
2007 1833
2008 1668
2009 1658
2010 1969

Thus for the past five years we have the strongest Easter worship numbers this year and 311 more people attended than the previous year. This is encouraging.

As we begin our seventh year together as congregation and pastor, I cannot thank you affectionately enough for the potential that we have as a church. I pray we continue on the path which we have begun, and with God’s providential guidance, perhaps we can continue to become a community of love, a place of forgiveness, and a beacon of hope.

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