Where are you? Where are you?
Last weekend, I had the joy of reuniting with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in Bloomington, Indiana, to celebrate the retirement of Tim Bayly, senior pastor of Trinity Reformed Church. Tim had served as the pastor of that church for thirty years, and the fruit of his ministry is impossible to miss in the church and the community. He is both loved and despised with equal intensity; there ain’t nothing lukewarm.
Tim and his wife, Mary Lee, were, and remain, very influential in our own family’s life on many levels. One of the things I am so grateful for is that Tim has never flattered me and, consequently, I can trust what he says, even if the words spoken are, at times, direct and painful to hear. Faithful, indeed, are the wounds of a friend (Proverbs 27:6)! Another important thing I learned under Tim’s ministry is that pastors might preach to a particular individual or individuals in the congregation and cast a wide net in the process. For example, I will, at times, select an anthem with the hope that it will minister to a particular individual going through a significant trial, and then hear from many people that the anthem was also a help to them.
Now, to the point. It has been my observation that, in the summer, numbers in corporate worship usually dwindle. Of course, this is to be expected. Summer is a time of vacation and travel - a time to rest and visit with family and friends we haven’t seen for some time. And for those who are able, escaping the Columbia summer roasting around this time of year, and fleeing to the mountains or to the ocean is an enviable option.
Yet, is it possible, just maybe, that we use the summer as an opportunity for the flesh (Galatians 5:13)? Is it possible that even during the course of the year, corporate worship is more a part of our schedule and activity than a biblical conviction? Maybe we think that church is good for us - like an exercise routine - so it simply becomes another good thing for my family or me. And so, when our social schedule changes, is it possible that our true spiritual commitments are revealed? Maybe we actually do believe that we can live the Christian life without church, or just head to church when it is convenient to do so.
Jesus knew that his disciples needed rest and a change of scenery from time to time. Jesus knows that we, his people, still need rest and time away. Summer is the time for this, but also a good time for reflection and self-examination. The title of this unintended-to-be but possibly pugnacious article is not about head-counting or legalistic attendance expectations. But it does make the point that presence, or lack thereof, in corporate worship can serve as a spiritual barometer or, more appropriately, a thermometer. And maybe, as the temperature rises in Columbia, we can be reminded of our own spiritual temperature: hot, cold, or lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).
What a privilege and joy it is to have Jesus as our shepherd and friend, who will never leave us nor forsake us, and who is always faithful, even when we may at times prove to be faithless. What a friend we truly have in Jesus!
Dr. Daniel Cole
Director of Music Ministry