As a First Reader in my branch church, I’ve gained useful instruction from the following exchange of words between Jesus and those who were “sticklers for the law” in his time.
“One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat. But the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look, why are they breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?” Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest) and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!’”
Mark 2:23-28, NLT.
When studying the last statement of Jesus about “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people” I replaced the word Sabbath with the phrase “church services,” which turns into, “Our church services were made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of our church services.”
I’ve thought about “requirements” that might have formed over the decades in the mind-set of church members who sponsor church services. Expectations like, “We have church services, people should attend them, especially Christian Scientists. People are to walk into the sanctuary be quiet and make no disturbance. They are to follow the order of the service, listen to the readings, be inspired, and go home until its time to come back for another service.” These expectations, if believed for a long period of time, can start to feel like law in the mind of the believer. And if their “law” is ever broken by someone around them, they might get offended or even angry, like the Pharisees did with Jesus.
But the more significant lesson I gain from study of this passage lies in understanding that sponsors of church services need to take full responsibility for the success of their service, and not unwittingly put it on the shoulders of the attendee by framing success in terms of what the attendee does, rather than what the sponsor is doing.
When the church membership is focused on sponsoring high quality church services that are palpably filled with the Holy Ghost and gushing forth the comforting presence of Love, those services are going to prosper. Also, striving for a high-quality experience for the attendee where people attending feel instantly swooped into a super-loving fellowship that makes them feel loved, wanted and needed.
When church services serve the attendee, more attendees are going to show up.