The Unholy Circle of Church Life

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  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 10:23-25

What is the Unholy Circle of Church Life?  First, it will not be sung by Phil Collins in the next remake of the movie.

It was explained to me in this manner.

  1. When a child is born, the parents bring him or her to church to be baptized.  For you who do not have infant baptism, you might have infant christening, dedication or other such things.  If not, bear with me.
  2. The child goes to Sunday school from an early age, maybe not birth, but maybe before kindergarten so that they can be with other children and learn how to sit still for a little while.
  3. At about the seventh grade, or about 12-13 years of age, the child usually complains so much about going to church that the parents, who were dropping the child off and not staying anyway, figure that the child already knows those ‘stupid’ Bible stories by now.  If they let the child drop out, they no longer have to wake up and take the child to Sunday school.
  4. When the child grows up and starts getting serious about the person they are dating, they quickly join a church.  That is a cover so that when they ask to be marred in the church, they are already members, eligible for member benefits – not joining with the date for the wedding already set.
  5. Of course, they only start coming to church when they are about to announce their wedding day.
  6. After the honeymoon, you never see them until they have their first child.  Depending on your church’s belief regarding infant baptism, christening, or dedication, you either see the parents for that function or when they drive slowly, but not stopping, shoving the child out the car door for Sunday school.
  7. Of course, the parents will be at the church, if the child chooses the same church for the child’s wedding.
  8. Then as the former child is getting old, there comes a time when they get an uneasy feeling.  The thought of not having anyone to pray for them in their old age or cry at their funeral becomes so overpowering that they show up to church on a regular basis.
  9. The last time you see them in church is in their casket or urn.

When we first moved to Pennsylvania, we went to a church that had no junior high or high school Sunday school.  Problem:  We had a high school senior.  The adult Sunday school class had only six or seven people in it.  The teacher, our first Sunday in attendance, said, “I can remember the day Marty Schottenheimer jumped out this window right here to play ball instead of attending Sunday school.”  For those that don’t know, Marty Schottenheimer was from our little town in Pennsylvania and at the time, he was an NFL American Football coach.  The members in the little Sunday school class were there when Marty was baptized.  I think the youngest in the class, other than my wife and I, was 79 years old.

When I went to a session member, a ruling elder of the church, to complain about our high school senior son not having Sunday school, Christian instruction, youth group, Bible study, anything, I was taught the nine points above of the circle of church life in SW Pennsylvania.  We checked around with other churches.  Almost all the churches that we would attend had the same problem.  Some new evangelical churches were just getting started, but the nearest one was over a half hour drive away.

The church made our son the ‘director’ of Christian Education.  He did not go to Sunday school, but he went from one class to the next to check if the teachers needed anything and collect the offering money.  He’d count the money, tally the attendance, and watch the church treasurer lock the money in the safe.  He would be done about the same time my wife and I woke up from Sunday school class.  I am sorry for that confession, but the old 80 or 90-year-old teacher was that boring.  The next year, I offered an alternate adult Sunday school class.  My wife, another lady our age, the preacher’s wife, and I were the only ones in attendance.

We now attend a church, about thirty minutes from our house that has 4-5 adult Sunday school offerings, a junior high class, senior high class, confirmation class for joining the church, and several adult Bible studies during the week.  The youth have a very active youth group each Sunday night with a lot of non-members in attendance.  You see, the youth group does fun stuff and goes on mission trips.

Yet, when each youth graduates high school, the unholy circle of church life seems to take over their lives, even in a more well-rounded church. 

Are their exceptions to the rule?  One of our most vibrant young adult couples teaches an adult Sunday school class.  Of course, who teaches those Sunday school classes as the children are growing up, other parents?

Even in the best of churches, church attendance is patchy for those church members between 18 and 68 years of age.

Does it matter?  Yes, it does.  God called us together as a church family.  That should be answer enough.  The Scripture above talks of encouraging one another.  Maybe some today are satisfied with the occasional tweet, but they should try physical contact on occasion.  It is much more effective.

When I was getting frustrated as a church leader, the associate pastor asked me what I wanted to do when I left the ruling body of the church.  I told him that I wanted to be a shut-in.  I explained that the preacher comes by every quarter to give them communion in their living room.  The deacons visit twice each year to talk and leave off a present, one usually is a box of locally made high quality chocolates.  And better yet, you had no stupid leadership meetings to attend, and if you wanted to hear the sermon, they mailed you a CD.

The associate pastor had this thousand-mile stare after I described being a “shut in”.  He smiled and said, “You and me, both.”

But God commands us to attend church and go beyond that.  We are to profess a hope in God’s promises.  We are to love.  We are to do good deeds.  And we are to encourage one another.

Hmmmm.  With all that in mind, it might take more than an hour or two each week to get it done.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

6 Comments

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  1. How ironic, I saw that circle in action in the previous situation I discussed on ther last post. The young lady in the open lifestyle of sin did just that thing. Started being faithful about the time wedding plans were being made. Even taught a kid’s class(which was a HUGE problem, for my wife and I). All the time living openly with her boyfriend. (as evidenced on Facebook when they bought a house together.) Wedding shower by the church ladies and the whole nine yards. I don’t know for sure, as we aren’t there anymore, but I bet she hasn’t darkened the door in months. He actually never did.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I worked for The Little Brown church museum in my younger years. Beautiful place then, and it still is now. Beautiful photo.

    Liked by 1 person

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