Yesterday I purposely didn't count how many people attended our worship gathering. Everybody keeps saying how it's wrong... or stupid... or whatever, so I finally decided I would stop. And I didn't used to merely count how many were there, but I have always taken actual attendance. I had a list with everybody's name on it and I used to mark down if they were there every Sunday. If someone new came I would try my best to find out their name and write it down - that helped me learn names. The reason I took attendance was because it not only allowed me to know how many were there, but I could keep track of whether someone was gone, and if someone was gone for several weeks in a row I could surmise perhaps something might be wrong and I would try to find out. I have to admit though, that it was sometimes a problem because there was always a tendency to notice those who *weren't* in attendance more than those who were, and this would bother me from time to time, because I didn't want it to be like you "had" to be there every Sunday. I'd tried to stop before, but it was just something I HAD to do.
I did finally quit having someone do it on the days when I was gone. It seemed no matter who I would ask to do it, they always had a hard time keeping track, so I quit making a list for them. And when I didn't ask anyone specifically - no one bothered to do it. Since I had been gone the previous two weeks and there was no attendance taken, I thought this would be a good time to stop altogether.
Then last night Jane and I were going for a walk and a friend stopped us. While throwing down his cigarette he says, "I'm sorry I haven't been at church for awhile pastor, but my son tried to commit suicide, and I keep having these headaches and getting bloody noses." We talked about that, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking, "Dangit, I didn't even know he hadn't been there the past several weeks. No one took attendance... Or, should I say, *I* didn't TELL anyone to take attendance. And like that wasn't bad enough, one of my church leaders had actually stopped and talked to him earlier in the day - and they apparently didn't feel this was worth letting me know about!
I don't know... I admit, it was nice not taking attendance yesterday. I didn't care how many were there, and I didn't think about who wasn't there. But now I'm wondering if that was a good thing or not.
I am sick and tired of listening to people tell me the right or the wrong way of "doing church." And I'm really sick of people telling me that the church doesn't matter. Because what they're really saying (even though they would never say it) is that people don't matter. And dammit, they do!