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The Packed, The Unpacked, And The Unpacking

The Packed, The Unpacked, And The Unpacking

Yes, that is a play on words similar to “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” it is intentional — I’m describing circumstances that are good, bad and ugly. I didn’t watch the whole super bowl this year because I forgot about it. Whoops! About halfway through the game I remembered, and kind of watched the last few minutes (while I worked on some other stuff). One thing I noticed: The stadium was packed! People are very passionate about what matters to them.

Why was the stadium packed and yet, no church in the country is? I can even lump denominational churches into this discussion. No church is packed. Pre-covid, post-covid, or in-covid; it makes no difference. There was a time in our country, when churches were packed. There was also a time when things like sin were less common, or at least less celebrated.

Why can people be passionate about sports and not congregational loyalty? This is a sad, but accurate commentary on our culture. Sin always mars and mangles. And as sin-sick as our society is, it should not surprise us that this is what see: packed sport venues, and empty churches — with sin on the rise. We have drunk long at the trough of ungodliness and we shouldn’t be surprised to find poison on our lips.

People pack the venues that matter to them. It is sad that most churches find themselves unpacked and sadder still that far too many are unpacking. The current census is most churches are unpacked, meaning they find the pews utterly unfilled. What can we do to prevent the exodus enveloping all of us? I think we must convert with deep conviction. Too few “convert” to Christianity with no real concept of loyalty to the local church, or notion of relationship to the body of Christ. Yet, that is a touching theme that traces through the NT (see Eph. 1:22-23; 2:14-17; 4:1-6; 5:22-31; I Cor. 12; etc). If we want the pews packed with people, we must have hearts packed with devotion to God and one another.

The people unpacking the pews — there isn’t much that can be done about that. I hate this answer, because it doesn’t satisfy me. But the reality is, I can’t have faith for someone else. I can’t show up for someone else. I can’t be convicted for someone else. I must stand my ground. I must focus and be intentional about helping others stay the course. “I,” you see this problem and therefore the solution, starts with me. If I can stay loyal to King Jesus, I will have a much better chance of helping someone else stay loyal. That’s the context wherein the Hebrew writer admonishes his readers, “And let us consider one another, in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25). In a world where Christians with Jewish backgrounds were “unpacking” the church, the Hebrew writer says, stick together! Hold the line! Be closer knit than ever before! Be there to strengthen, embolden, intention-ate, focus-ify — yes, I made up those last two, but you get my point. Be zealous and help others do the same. People show up for what they are passionate about. The solution to this problem is an unfailing passion for God and loyalty to our brethren in the local church.

There is another scenario: The Packing. That is, the pews aren’t packed yet but are filling. There is room to grow and grow is what they are doing. I like this one! Which do you want us to be here? It starts with you.

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