Sent: Friday, February 24, 2006 10:47 AM
Subject: COMPLAINING ABOUT THE "MISSING" [02/24--2006]

From time to time I either read or hear complaints made by some of the brethren who seem to be very passionately concerned in regard to churches who may have a large membership rolls but many of the members are "missing" at the church services. I often see where "percentages" are referred to ostensibly to prove the case, and how judgments are invariably made which question the salvation or spirituality of the "missing" numbers. In the case of some very large "mega" type churches, we are often informed about how many hundreds or even thousands do not show up on Sunday morning -- even though there are hundreds or even thousands who do show up at such large churches. Perhaps a church of 5000 members will have only about 2000 in attendance, and the focus for criticism is upon the "missing." Why not on the 2000 that do show up?

When I hear such complaints -- which are almost always accompanied by a presumed dire judgment made regarding the spiritual state of the missing ones -- I recall that even during the ministry of Jesus and the early church, there was a similar condition, with many professors and temporary followers, but a minority of the very faithful and enduring ones.

Jesus often had multitudes following Him and listening to Him, and even being fed and healed by Him on various occasions, but only a handful of followers showed up at the Lord's Supper, less at the crucifixion, and even after His resurrection only 120 in the upper room on the day of Pentecost.

I also recall the parable of the sower (Luke 8:5). Only one out of four that heard the Word received it and brought forth enduring fruit. Also, of the ten lepers that were healed by the Lord, only one of them returned to give glory to God (Luke 17:15-18).

Ought we to be concerned about the "missing" numbers of church members? Of course. But ought we not be more concerned and focused upon those in attendance? We can't do much ministering at church services to the missing ones. So we need to be devoted to making sure that we minister to those in attendance in a positive way rather than waste time and energy complaining and griping and setting forth presumed judgments about the missing ones.

I once heard a tale about the preacher who had only one member to show up at the service on a cold winter day when the snow was deep on the ground. He had long wanted to get a message "thru" to this fellow, but couldn't seem to do so. This time he thought had that member "right where he wanted him" -- he couldn't fail to get thru to him this time! He preached right at the man and thought he would surely hit the target.

After the sermon, the member went up and shook the preacher's hand and said, "That was a great sermon! You sure hit the nail on the head! I just wish those that needed it had been here!"

It is far better to have people coming in such large numbers that perhaps one out of four, at least, can be reached with the Word and then go forth to bear enduring fruit, while the others eventually are numbered among the "missing." Wouldn't it be nice if every church today could report, "We had 1000 members at the services," even if they also had 3000 missing? Sure, it would be wonderful to have a higher percentage, but in the light of the parable of the Sower, if we could just always have a one-out-four average, it would be a blessing.

This matter of the "missing" hundreds and thousands is not really the problem in most cases today. The problem today seems to be that in all too many churches there are not enough hundreds and thousands being added to the churches to even have the large number of "missing ones" about which to be concerned! -- Bob L. Ross


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