Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The one meal a week plan...

Early in our marriage, I used to frustrate Cheryl when she would ask me if I was hungry. I would invariably say “I don’t know, what time is it?” I seemed to have this thought in my head that if it was around 9, noon or 5 I’d be hungry. If it wasn’t in those time slots, I wasn’t hungry. Her response was always along the lines of this had nothing to do with time, you’re either hungry or not. I had what a scientist named Pavlov called a conditioned reflex – I’d conditioned myself to be hungry at those times of the day. Not much has changed after nearly 26 years of marriage as I’m still hungry at those times! Now suppose that Cheryl told me she was putting me on diet to help me lose some weight (please, no comments) but the diet she had in mind was one big meal on Sunday at noon. I could eat all I wanted at noon on Sunday but that would have to last me the rest of the week. No snacks, no junk food, nothing till the following Sunday. Everyone knows that would be a preposterous plan that is doomed to failure. I couldn’t possibly keep that up because my body needs physical food in moderation on a regular basis.

I’m amazed at how many Christians think that such a plan works spiritually so they are on the “one meal a week plan”. In other words they come to worship on Sunday mornings and gorge themselves on the spiritual food, offered in corporate worship. The really faithful ones show up on Sunday week in and week out, they probably snack throughout the week by reading a devotional, they might even get a sandwich by reading their Bibles, or the really zealous might get a microwaved left-over meal by listening to some preaching on CD or a podcast. (I won’t even talk about those really hearty souls who are on the once or twice a month Sunday meal plan…)

As the under-shepherd here at Calvary I take very seriously my responsibility before the Lord to feed God’s people a hot fresh meal from the Word of God when we gather for corporate worship. Here at Calvary, that is twice on Sunday mornings and in mid-week worship on Wednesday evenings. I know that 30-40 minutes of preaching on Sunday morning is not enough to “make disciples.” About 22 months ago, our church family voted to rearrange our church schedule to remove all the committee meetings happing during the week nights in the evenings and move them to a different Sunday night of the month. At that time, we had a Sunday evening worship service with no activities for children and we had AWANA ministry on Wednesday nights with nothing for adults not involved in AWANA. We moved our Sunday night worship to Wednesday because we had child care and activities in place. We said when we adopted this schedule change we’d give it 18-24 months to evaluate it. We’re in the time line of needing to evaluate this. Part of the plan with our schedule change has worked well freeing up weeknights for families without committee meetings. But quite honestly, I’m in a quandary because our Wednesday worship attendance started out around 40 and I had hoped that this would grow and flourish. That has not happened as we’re down to just a faithful few who make Wednesday worship a priority. We tried offering a fellowship meal before church to help families with dinner needs but that didn’t seem to help people come and participate in worship.  We’ve been consistently doing well with our AWANA involvement which is good;  but I wonder why we don’t have people eager to participate in Wednesday worship? I realize our worship time slot is a huge challenge because we start at 6:15 and go to 7:10 which makes it hard for commuters coming from work and to help families with school aged children we need to conclude everything by 8:15.

I bring this all up because corporate worship is critical for our spiritual well being. Mid-week worship is designed to encourage, strengthen, edify and build up the body of Christ in the midst of your personal daily Bible Study you should be doing. I know it’s hard to get to worship by 6:15, but I suspect that it boils down to a simple matter of priorities as people tend to do what they want to do and they afford what they want to afford. I’m as wiped out as the next person by Wednesday, but I prioritize to be in my place with the table set and ready to serve you. I know you think “well you have to be there, you’re the pastor!” Long before I became a pastor, Wednesday worship has been a priority for me and my family and with 5 kids, we had to work at getting there. Satan doesn’t want us worshipping God on Sunday, but Wednesdays too? He’ll make sure you don’t feel like going on Wednesday or something will come up. Worship whether on Sunday or Wednesday is not about what is convenient for me or based on how I feel. When the people of God gather to meet the Lord and engage Him in worship, God begins to do amazing things in our personal lives and our corporate church life. Quite frankly, I’m not willing to just roll over and play dead and give in to the evil one’s idea that it’s hopeless trying to have Wednesday worship. I’ll be talking to our leadership team about options because I know the time slot is hard, but will you evaluate your commitment to Wednesday worship? If you are hindered by God from being able to attend, that’s one thing, but if there are some changes that could take place, I encourage you to prioritize accordingly. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for unchurched people to see Calvary gathered mid-week in corporate worship and God would use our commitment to be salt in light in such a way it would make people hungry to know God? For nurses, doctors, emergency service workers who can’t gather on Sunday, how will they have a chance to come if we just quit offering an alternative worship service opportunity?

I’m not trying to goad or berate anyone with a big guilt trip. I’m genuinely wrestling with how to maintain midweek corporate worship opportunities in the middle of a culture that is maxed out in their schedules and lives. Will you pray with me on this? Let’s ask God for wisdom and a solution in our effort to make disciples and edify the body of Christ. I never have to be asked to feed my body through the week and I know the one meal a week plan won’t work. Oh that I would hunger and thirst for spiritual food as I do for physical food. Trying to encourage your spiritual appetite, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Ralph Green

Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

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