Why are our assemblies dying?
Because members no longer get value from attending.
It's often claimed that people "want entertainment", and that's why they don't attend.
I believe that's false. It's not that people want entertainment; it's that they want Value.
Entertainment is a form of value, so it works to some extent to bring people in, but entertainment is not really what people seek in attending. They seek Value.
Those who attend regularly find some value in attending:
- a sense of doing what they're supposed to do
- a chance to criticize
- standing within the community
- they like lectures, and sitting mostly passively on a pew for two hours
- a chance to meet a boy/girl-friend
Those who don't attend regularly don't find value in attending.
If we're not offering the value that the Bible has established for attending, is it any wonder our assemblies are failing?
Most people think that Biblical value is "worship", focused upward on God.
But the truth is, the Biblical value for our assemblies is one-anothering, focused horizontally on one another.
We can worship God when we're all alone in a fishing boat on the lake. But we can't one-another when we're alone.
We can worship God when we're alone on the couch at home. But we can't one-another when we're alone.
We can worship God when we meditate silently in our pew during the Lord's Supper. But we can't one-another when we're inward-focused.
We can worship God when we're looking at our song books, or the overhead projection, or the song leader, belting out the chorus of 728B. But we can't one-another when we're essentially ignoring those around us, passively "teaching" them the exact same words they're passively "teaching" us.
And since many of us are introverts, we sneak in quietly, trying to avoid the gauntlet of hand-shakers, and we sneak out the side-door as soon as the last "Amen" is uttered, because we find no value in small-talk. Those same introverts might find value, however, in a safe place to talk to others about things that matter.
The Bible presents the value of assembling as each person encouraging and enabling each other person to do good works, and to grow spiritually. This does not mean talking about the weather for three minutes before the opening announcements.
As long as "church" is structured like a Catholic mass lite, we're not going to see Biblical results for the assembly.
Here are some one-anothering suggestions:
- Set aside a time for small groups to go around the circle telling first name and some significant thing that is currently happening in their life. Make that info publicly available on a prayer-list.
- Discover what each members' strength is, and put that strength to work some how in the assembly.
- Set up an information exchange so that needs can be matched up with skills. Sister Anna needs a broken window replaced? Brother David has the money to pay for a new window, and Brother Tom has the tools and skills and time to replace the window. David is eager to serve with his money, and Tom is eager to serve with his skills, but unless they know about Anna's need, their gifts are lying fallow and her need goes unmet.
- Rather than have a 20-minute lecture, which absolutely drives away the post-MTV generation, present God's word in a way that has value to the people. Sermons are absolutely useless to me. I do not hear a word. I am not an auditory learner. I tune out, and fall asleep. Lectures have no value whatsoever to me. And that's the main focus of most of our assemblies; it's the only service most congregations pay for. In my case, it's just throwing away money. Am I unique in that way? Or are our empty pews testimony that others find little or no value in one-sided dronings that tell us what we've known since we were three? Make your presentation interactive; get us involved. The very first Gospel sermon takes less than two minutes to read out loud, slowly, and it was followed by a Q&A. Yet we think we've improved on that by following Paul's example of preaching a kid to death (after which, he changed his methodology from talking to them to talking with them - interesting).
- Change the seating, so that instead of focusing everyone on one, everyone can focus more better on each other. How can we be one-another focused if all we see of each other is the back of each other's head?
You want your assembly to grow? Then focus on the Biblical reason for assembling: One-anothering.