Is habitual church absence a sin?

This is a very short (trust me!) response to an important question. Is it a sin for someone who professes faith in Jesus Christ to be consistently absent from and thus inactive in a local church?

Yes, I believe it is a sin.

When considering this issue, many will point to Hebrews 10:24-25, which says, “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

While I believe that clear calling and command are helpful, I believe 1 Corinthians 12 is even more helpful when considering the critical importance of active church membership and involvement for a follower of Jesus Christ. As verse 12 and following make clear, the singular body (the church) with many individual parts (church members) cannot possibly function properly if those parts are not actively involved.

“Now you ([plural you – i.e. you all]) are the body of Christ, and individual members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Paul was writing this letter to the local church in Corinth. They were one body – one church – consisting of many members. And, just as we understand clearly from the body and body parts analogy, a body that is missing members simply cannot function properly or naturally. All members are needed, just as all members need the body. When a member is missing, the rest of the body is affected.

So often, when people choose to miss church services and not maintain active church involvement, they think it is primarily about them

“I’m busy and just don’t really have time for the church right now.”

“I’m not getting much out of it.”

“I don’t need to go to church to worship God.”

But, all of those excuses (and countless others I have heard) are centered on the individual choosing to not engage with the church. I do not recall the last time I heard someone say, “I really need to get back in church, so that I can better serve others and help them grow in their relationship with God.”

What if that was our motivation? What if we loved one another so much that our longing to be actively involved with our church was less about our individual selves and more about each other and the church as a whole?

What if we applied the greatest commandment to love God with your entire being and the second greatest commandment to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40) to our church life?

“But, I’m busy and just don’t really have time for the church right now.”

Sure, you might be busy, but you will make time for what is important in life.

“But, I’m not getting much out of it.”

You might not be “getting much out of it,” but what can you do to make sure others are getting much? And, are sharing your concerns about spiritual growth and health with church leaders?

“But, I don’t need to go to church to worship God.”

Yes, you can worship God anywhere, but you need the church and the church needs you.

In a letter to another local church, Paul said, “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts…” (Romans 12:3-6).

Now, consider your excuses for not being an active church member, and see if they can still be defended in light of 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. I am not aware of any that can, with the exception of those who are sick or imprisoned for their faith, in which case the church is called to go to them.

Granted, many choose not to join and be active in a church because they do not yet have a born-again relationship with Jesus Christ. In that case, we cannot expect unbelievers to act like believers.

If you do profess to know and follow Jesus, though, please prove the legitimacy of your faith by obeying His Word and loving His church.

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I need to get over myself.

I don’t think he ever sent us a thank you note for that gift we gave him.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

He was recognized, but they didn’t say anything about all that I did for them.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Hey, let’s take a selfie and show everyone what we’re doing to serve others.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Why didn’t more people like my most recent social media post?” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Ah, shoot! They took my parking spot.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Look – someone is sitting in our seat.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Narcissism is an excessive interest and/or admiration for oneself. It is vanity and high esteem for oneself, loving oneself most and selfishly putting oneself first. Narcissism results in a sense of entitlement.

And, narcissism is evil. I need to get over myself, and maybe you do, too.

There is a reason Jesus said that the second greatest commandment, behind loving God with your entire being, is to love your neighbor as yourself. “All the Law and the Prophets,” Jesus said, “depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:40).

Loving God most and loving your neighbor as yourself are the opposite of narcissism.

In talking about God’s will for unity in the body of Christ – unity that is impossible when we are self-entitled narcissists – Paul said, “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one” (Romans 12:3).

Yet, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others and constantly wanting more for ourselves, rather than obeying the command: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Narcissism does not have to be taught, as self-centeredness is part of our sinful nature, is it not? We see this with small children refusing to share their toys. We see this with temper tantrums when things do not go their way. We see this with kids running to get to the front of the line, cutting off others in the process. We see this when a child hits another child because a toy was taken. We do not teach our children these things. They do these things because they are sinners.

Oh, if only we adults were better, but are we? Surely, narcissism is not a problem in the church, right?

Sadly, our selfishness is on full-display every week in church activities…

How often do you arrive early for worship services but take the farthest parking spot, so that others can get the best spots? “Well, I got here first, so I deserve this spot.” Narcissism.

How often do you sit toward the front of the sanctuary and in the middle of a pew, so that others who arrive after you do not awkwardly have to walk past you and ask if they can get by you? “Well, I got here first, so I deserve this spot.” Narcissism.

How often do you do the things no one else wants to do, even when no one is watching? “That’s disgusting (or hard or miserable).” Narcissism.

How often do you volunteer to serve in the church nursery or in some other area of great need, even without being asked? “I’ve done my time, so it’s someone else’s turn now.” Narcissism.

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing a short sermon series on the downfall of King Saul – Becoming the Villain. If you consider the life of King Saul, you might realize that he had lots of problems, but did not narcissism seem to be the ultimate sin that destroyed him? His self-love led to his jealousy of God’s blessings on someone else.

So often with children, we see our own narcissistic nature shining through. If I am honest with myself and with you, I need to get over myself. I am a selfish sinner who needs God’s help every single day. My children are no different than I.

As they learn to trust in Jesus, though, and as He begins to change their lives for His glory, we see results. The Holy Spirit begins to change their hearts, which results in changed attitudes and changed behaviors.

Praise the Lord! If He can change selfish children and give them a desire to get on the floor and play a less-desirable game with their younger siblings without being told to do so, then He can change you, too.

Narcissism destroys lives, so pray for God’s help to live a life of humility and to have contentment in Him. This is only possible in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Will you help Noah and Levi?

In just over four months, Noah and Levi will be joining 15 others from our church on a mission trip to Guatemala. While in Guatemala, they will minister to and alongside the children of Casa De Mi Padre in Santa Cruz del Quiche.

What a great opportunity for Noah and Levi (and the others going on this trip) to be challenged in their faith by serving the Lord and serving others!

Noah was blessed to go on our church’s first trip to Guatemala last June, and he is excited to return. This will be Levi’s first mission trip, though. Marsha and I are very thankful to the Lord that He has compelled our boys to take this journey, even though neither one of us is joining them.

Of course, we are even more comfortable than we would be otherwise, since two of those joining Noah and Levi are Marsha’s parents, Tony and Jeanette. Furthermore, we have great people from our amazing church family going, and our church truly is family to us.

While in Guatemala, this team will primarily be doing orphan care ministry with the children at the orphanage, but they will also have opportunities for evangelistic outreach and mercy ministry to people in the surrounding community. They will be bringing Bibles and gospel tracts to distribute to those to whom they minister and will also work alongside a local church that the orphanage workers and children attend.

Would you consider helping Noah and Levi?

  1. They (and we) obviously covet your prayers for this trip, that God will be glorified in and through the entire team.
  2. They (and we) would also be grateful for any financial support you can offer them as they raise funds for their airline tickets ($608/person) and the in-country expenses, including travel, lodging and meals ($725/person). So, they are needing to raise $1,333 each for this trip.

If you would like to help and/or have any questions, please contact us HERE, or you can also call or text me at 573-416-3195. Thank you for your partnership in this exciting mission!

Noah with one of the children at the orphanage last year.

All or Nothing

After the recent winter storm that brought us 18 inches of snow, our furnace stopped working. Actually, it worked just enough to confuse us. If I messed with the thermostat a little or manually reset the ignition switch to light the burners, the furnace would kick on for a little bit. Still, the actual temperature could not rise to the set temperature.

I was baffled. Talking with some trustees from our church (we live in the church parsonage), we thought maybe it was the thermostat. Then, we thought it must be something with the furnace itself.

Finally, we called a professional to take a look, and after he did some diagnostic tests, he realized the furnace was not getting the air intake necessary to allow the burners to ignite for more than a few minutes.

Why was that the case? Well, there was so much snow on our roof that the air-intake pipe was sucking up snow rather than air, causing the furnace to malfunction. Above, you can see a picture of our roof at the time and how the snow around the white gooseneck pipe was starting to break away.

Thankfully, just enough snow melted that same day, so I did not have to get up on our metal roof. The problem is solved. Our furnace is working again.

When it was only working part of the time, though, were we satisfied? No. What did we say? That our furnace was not working. First world problem, I know, but people are not content with a furnace that only works part of the time.

Much more importantly, God is not satisfied with an individual who only submits to part of His Word. God does not want just part of your heart. God is not calling you to serve Him part of the time.

All or nothing. Jesus is Lord of all, including Lord of your life and Lord of my life. Not part of our lives but the entirety of our lives.

So, just like every other person in all of human history, you have a decision to make. Will you daily surrender yourself to Jesus Christ and submit to His Lordship? Or, will you pick and choose when and how to obey Him?

King Saul wanted to pick and choose. He had everything but had the kingdom torn away from him because he decided full submission to God was not necessary. Lord willing, I will be preaching from 1 Samuel 15 on Sunday morning – “Villains Refuse Submission” (from our Becoming the Villain series).

King Saul began as God’s chosen man to lead God’s chosen people, but he became a villain – an enemy of God. Do not let the temptation to only partially submit to the will of God and the Word of God cause you to become a villain, too.

I have no desire for a partially working furnace, and God has no desire for a partially committed disciple. Surrender your all to Him today and every day. Trust Him to change you, equip you and enable you, as you surrender to Him.

This picture of Zoe has nothing to do with this post, but I love her afro and wanted to share this great picture, which is a fitting representation of her fun personality, too.

So Little Power

With 18 inches of snow came an overwhelming reminder of how weak and powerless I am, especially next to our infinite, mighty God.

I have spent hours shoveling this past week. I do not recall shoveling this much snow since I was a teenager living in northern Iowa. My back is sore, but I have slept well!

When the snow began Friday, I was hopeful that the storm would end by Saturday, so that we could clear the sidewalks and parking lot and still have church services on Sunday. Well, that obviously did not happen. In fact, our parking lot was not cleared until Monday afternoon, when two trucks with blades worked together for two hours to get rid of the snow.

Even those trucks had a difficult time moving the snow, as the snow was and is heavy. They had to do the lot with their blades halfway down and then go over it again.

As the time passed each day, I felt like such a weakling with a little snow shovel in my hands. My contributions to making the walkways and driveways passable seemed so slow and insignificant. And, even when I would get a sidewalk cleared, more snow would come, or snow would fall off the roof of the church building or parsonage, covering the shoveled areas again.

Is this not all a great lesson in humility? I have so little power, especially next to the mighty Creator of the universe. He created me. He sustains me. And, He is able to humble me whenever He pleases.

Another winter storm is coming this weekend. Again, I pray things are clear enough by Sunday morning to have services. I am actually planning on preaching on power – how we must be sure to not love and pursue earthly power (and what we should do instead).

Seemed like a fitting reminder to me, then, that my “power” truly is not only temporary but limited. Praise God for His power that is matchless and eternal!

If you have not yet experienced how great it is to find your hope and trust in His power, I encourage you to call on Him today.

There are certainly some perks to snow storms and snow days, including extra family time.

Fear must not win.

When we spent time at Marsha’s parents’ house last week, I was able to help her dad take down an old antenna from their yard. Thankfully, he did most of the work, including the final removement of the antenna with his tractor (in picture below, which only includes the bottom half of the antenna).

Before getting to that point, though, he had secured a couple long ropes to the antenna going out from a couple angles to keep the antenna from falling into the house. One rope was securely fastened to the tractor, while I was pulling the other rope in a similar direction.

That antenna is much heavier than a couple men can handle. Otherwise, there would have been no need for a tractor and ropes. Praise God for tractors and ropes!

After some necessary cuts had been made and we had everything set and ready, Marsha’s dad began pulling with the tractor while I pulled my rope, and we were, at this point, only pulling down the top half of the antenna!

Was I afraid that the antenna would hit the house or crush me? No. Why? Well, certainly not because I am strong enough and certainly not because I am smart enough. Rather, I was not afraid because I was at a safe distance, was pulling on a good rope, knew the tractor was also pulling a good rope, and trusted that my father-in-law made a good plan to accomplish the task.

Faith filtered out any fear I had that something would go wrong. If not for faith and knowledge, when that antenna started to fall, I would have ran away for cover. That would have been an act of foolishness, though. Faith protected me from fear and folly.

Unfortunately for King Saul in 1 Samuel 13, his faith (or lack thereof) was defeated by fear. He feared what others would do, rather than trusting God and His promises. Thus, King Saul made a very foolish decision to deliberately disobey the commands of God, and the consequences were devastating.

Fear must not win. Fear is an enemy of faith.

During our morning worship service Sunday, Lord willing, I will be starting a new sermon series on the downfall of King Saul – Becoming the Villain. In the passage I’ll be preaching through Sunday – 1 Samuel 13:5-14 – we learn through the beginning of King Saul’s downfall that “Villains Follow Fear.”

That may sound harsh, but everyone is in only one of two camps. You either follow Jesus Christ, or you do not follow Jesus Christ. In the end, then, you are either a redeemed servant of Jesus, or you are a villain in rebellion against God.

Don’t become a villain, which happens if you think you can do things your way or any other way than God’s way. Turn to Him in faith, and trust Him to take away your fear of anything that will pull you away from following Him.

Remember, too, that it is not the strength of your faith that gives you victory over fear, sin and death. Rather, it is the object of your faith who has already won that victory. Jesus Christ is the key. He is the Victor. He must be the object of your faith, or your faith will prove to be folly.

Merry Christmas from the Drakes!

Greetings! We pray you and yours are doing well and seeking the Lord this Christmas season. Thankfully, our family has had a good and “normal” 2018 (as normal as a family of seven can experience, at least).

Noah (13) is in 7th grade and had his first season of tackle football this fall. He really enjoyed football, and his team going undefeated certainly helped. Now, he is busy with basketball, which is his favorite sport.

Levi (12) is in 6th grade and just started his basketball season, too, where he is fortunate (at times) and unfortunate (at times) to have his dad as his coach. Now in middle school, Levi greatly misses his favorite part of the day: recess.

Silas (8) is in 2nd grade and is constantly seeking to make people laugh and have fun. He is looking forward to basketball soon but says his favorite thing to do is play with toys.

Zoe (7) is in 1st grade and is gritty and holding her own with four brothers. She, as much as her brothers, loves rough-housing and playing tackle football in the yard. She can’t stop talking about how excited she is to start basketball.

Micah (3 ½) has now been a part of the Drake family for 18 months, but it seems like he has been here all along. While he is still a big-time mommy’s boy at heart, he sure adores the rest of his family and loves to try to do everything his siblings are doing.

Marsha is staying busy with Micah on her heels all day, and she continues to serve our church family in children’s ministry on Sundays and Wednesdays. She loves hanging out with our family, being involved in the kids’ school activities and sports, and keeping up with various projects.

Nick has been the pastor of Richland Baptist Church for more than five years now, and he loves this ministry, particularly preaching, discipleship and outreach. He, along with the rest of the family, is beyond grateful that his mom, sister Ashley and niece Sahari all moved to Fulton this year. It is an incredible blessing to all be a part of the same church and see each other multiple times each week.

While there are countless things for which we can give thanks this year, nothing even compares to the eternal life that is promised in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He came to this earth more than 2,000 years ago, born of a virgin and lived a perfect life. Then, He died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures promised He would.

When Jesus rose from the dead, He won the victory over sin and death, so that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Have you called on His name and asked Him to take over your life? If not, we pray you will make that decision before it’s too late because just like He came, as promised, the first time, He is coming again, as promised. And, His second coming is one of eternal judgment for all who have not yet surrendered to His Lordship, whereas it is a welcoming of eternal glory for all who have surrendered to Him.

If you have any questions about what it means to follow Jesus, please don’t hesitate to contact us. While we are far from perfect and certainly do not have all the answers, we would love to pray for and encourage you in any way we can.

Hope you have a great rest of the week and great start to 2019.

Merry Christmas and God bless you!

2018 Drake Kids
Micah’s face in this picture is a great example of how we often do NOT have it all together. Far from it, in fact.