Dear Absentee Church Member

Josh Buice


Are you too busy for the church?  Are you too busy building your career while neglecting to build God’s kingdom?  Are you finding time to invest in secular relationships while neglecting spiritual relationships among your fellow church members?  Are you using your talents while neglecting to use your spiritual gifts?  If this sounds familiar, I would encourage you to take time to evaluate what the Bible says about neglecting the church.

As a pastor, I’m extremely concerned for the distracted, over-worked, casual church member.  I’m not merely concerned that they’re not occupying space in the worship auditorium.  I’m concerned for their soul.  Consider the following warnings from the pages of Scripture.

#1 – Church Member: Neglecting to assemble for worship with the gathered church is a sin

Are you consistently absent from your church’s worship services?  Online church is not church.  It’s a filler for sick days or travel days, but it’s certainly not church.  In Hebrews 10:24-25 we see that our calling should be to “stir up” one another to love and good works.  How is this possible when you’re rarely gathered together with the church?  Consider the words of Mark Dever:

Nonattendance, in the early years of our church, was considered one of the most sinister of sins, because it usually veiled all the other sins. When someone began to be in sin, you would expect them to stop attending. [1]

#2 – Church Member: Neglecting God’s Word is a sin

Our appetite reveals much about our spiritual condition.  When you’re around sick people, they often have a very poor appetite.  This often results in the use of IV therapy in order to force the person to receive the nutrients necessary to sustain life.  What about the person who has time for their career, college football, recreation, vacation, and outdoor activities with the family but doesn’t desire the Word of God – specifically – the preaching of God’s Word?  What does this reveal about the spiritual condition of the described person?  The early church is pictured in Acts 2 as a people who desired the preaching and teaching of the Word.  The people of God in the Old Testament came out of a lengthy period of rebellion and had a burning appetite for God’s Word (Neh. 8).  If you find yourself in a state where you don’t have an appetite for God’s Word, you should search your heart for the reason.

#3 – Church Member: Neglecting the care of fellow church members is a sin

Membership in the local church involves responsibility.  Did you know that the physical and spiritual wellbeing of your fellow church members is your business?  This is one of the most important reasons to attend the weekly prayer meeting.  Exactly how are you involved in the regular care of your church on a spiritual level?  Consider what God’s Word says in Rom. 12:9-13, 1 Thess. 5:11, Phil. 2:4, and Gal. 6:2, 10.  Kevin DeYoung writes, “The man who attempts Christianity without the church shoots himself in the foot, shoots his children in the leg, and shoots his grandchildren in the heart.” [2]

#4 – Church Member: Neglecting to use your spiritual gifts for God’s glory is a sin

Have you considered the purpose in God’s gift to you and to His church with spiritual gifts?  Take time to consider what it would be like if tomorrow your right leg decided it wasn’t getting up for work.  How would that change your daily routine?  That’s why Paul used the body as an illustration about the importance of the entire church.  Everyone is needed and each body part is important (1 Cor. 12:12-26).

1 Corinthians 12:26 – If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

#5 – Church Member: Neglecting the gospel is a sin

Do you believe the gospel?  What are you doing to uphold the gospel and protect the church from a false gospel?  Not only did we need the gospel at the point of salvation, but we need the gospel daily.  Not only do we need the gospel daily, but so does the entire church family.  We must praise God through the gospel on a daily basis and preserve the church from error (Gal. 1:6; Jude 1:3; 1 Pet. 3:15; Titus 1:9).  Have you sought to correct anyone in your local church who has strayed away in the past 12 months?

#6 – Church Member: Neglecting to observe the ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s supper) is a sin

We are commanded by Christ to observe baptism and the Lord’s supper together as a church (Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25).  To neglect this responsibility and privilege is to neglect your own soul.  This is not an optional or extra credit opportunity suggested for a select group in the church.  This is ground zero, foundational, and essential for spiritual health.  Consider the words of Mark Dever:

Broadly speaking, baptism tends the front door of the church, while the Lord’s Supper tends the back door. Properly administered baptism (i.e., baptism of believers only upon a credible profession of faith) helps to ensure that only genuine believers are admitted into the membership of the church. Properly administered communion (i.e., communion given only to members in good standing of evangelical churches) helps to ensure that those who are under church discipline for unrepented sin do not scandalize the church or eat and drink judgment to themselves by partaking of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:29). [3]

#7 – Church Member: Neglecting to make disciples is a sin

We have been called to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20).  In the most logical manner, we begin in our neighborhood and move outward to the nations.  Notice that the command is not to go and get conversions.  We are to leave the converting up to God, and when that fruit comes, we are to baptize them and disciple them in the truth.  This involves the hard and persistent work of evangelism and discipleship – both rooted and grounded in the work of the local church.  That is not a command for “professionals” or pastors.  It’s a command for all of the children of God.

#8 – Church Member: Neglecting to follow your pastors is a sin

God has given us pastors for a reason.  That purpose involves leadership and spiritual care.  That type of leadership and spiritual care rubs against the grain of the American independent mindset.  We don’t want anyone getting into our business, so when someone unexpectedly applies Richard Baxter’s model of membership care, it seems odd, outdated, antiquated, and intrusive.  According to Hebrews 13:17, church members are to “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.”  Why is this command given?  The writer to the Hebrew Christians follows up with these words in Hebrews 13:17 – “Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”  To resist pastoral leadership is to endanger your soul.

#9 – Church Member: Neglecting members’ meetings is a sin

How does the church make decisions?  Are all decisions given over to the elders?  Does your church operate with any measure of congregationalism?  If so, you need to attend the church conferences (business meetings) and engage in the decision making of the church.  What ministries are being organized?  How are you helping to support and uphold the different ministries of the local church?  How does your church accept members or release members to other churches?  Are you involved with this process in the members’ meeting?  Do you know what’s happening in the life of the church?  What goals are the elders putting before the church?  What financial needs are present?  Do you know any specific need that you can pray for in the life of your church?  Consider the words of Charles Spurgeon:

I know there are some who say, “Well, I’ve given myself to the Lord, but I don’t intend to give myself to any church.”  I say, “Now why not?”  And they answer, “Because I can be just as good a Christian without it.”  I say, “Are you quite clear about that?  You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient?  There’s a brick.  What is the brick made for?  It’s made to build a house.  It is of no use for the brick to tell you that it’s just as good a brick while it’s kicking about on the ground by itself, as it would be as part of a house.  Actually, it’s a good-for-nothing brick.  So, you rolling stone Christians, I don’t believe that you’re answering the purpose for which Christ saved you.  You’re living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live and you are much to blame for the injury you do.” [4]

As a pastor I desire the best for the members entrusted to my care.  Pastoring is more than preaching, and the work of caring for the church is vitally important.  When sheep come up missing, it’s essential to find out why and work to bring them back into the family of faith.

If you’re an absentee church member, I want to encourage you to consider the danger of remaining in that position.  Don’t neglect the good gifts of God that come through the church.  Don’t neglect your faith, your family, and your own soul.  It’s time to stop saying that you’re too busy and start taking responsibility for your sin.

  1. Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 171.
  2. Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 132.
  3. Mark Dever, “Applying the Regulative Principle,” The Deliberate Church, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2005), 90.
  4. Tom Carter, Charles Spurgeon at His Best, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1988), 34.
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Author Church-Pews

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.