Church is to meet the needs of people

March 1, 2018 | 38 comments


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.

38 thoughts on “Church is to meet the needs of people”

  1. Thank you Evan. Over the Christmas period, I served as substitute First Reader at our branch church. There was a lot going on, and family commitments alongside preparations for the Sunday service. The suggestion came that there was a conflict between the loving attendance at family events, and sufficient study time – BUT that very same quote came to me – and I saw very clearly that LOVE is the basis of the service and that very same LOVE is expressed at family events – it is all ONE. Comforted and assured, I attended both – and just loved being able to serve in those capacities. Thanks for reminding me of this, dear Evan.

  2. Evan, I feel sure you are an excellent First Reader!

    “Gushing with love…. Swooping folks into super-loving fellowship!”

    My kinda church!!!!

    “The viral part, the heart and Soul of Christian Science, is Love.” -Mary Baker Eddy

  3. WELL SAID EVAN! Yes at our church we have certainly seen this happen…where there is love and a feeling of giving service this will always bring more members and friends to visit.
    A friend who was First Reader said to me that, while reading, he learned the real meaning of “Church SERVICE”…not as a noun…but as a verb. The readers are being, as Paul said “a slave” (in the best possible way) to God and to the church and it is an absolute gift to be in the position to do that.
    Of course, it is very gratifying for the Readers when many people turn up for the service but then, there can be very good reasons why people cannot and sometimes there may only be a small group.
    However, the work has been done by the Reader(s), and those healing thoughts still go out into the public consciousness with love, into the world and take effect. When there is a small group on a Wednesday night, it is a more intimate atmosphere, less formal , the testimonies are still fantastic and we always have a lovely evening. Formality and inflexibility in church in this century can be rather off-putting for so many (including me!) and the way our services are set out in the manual doesnt leave a lot that isn’t “set in concrete”, however there is always something that can be done a bit differently so that we are not lulled into “rituals”.
    This subject (which I could go on about endlessly) reminds me of the man who was lying by the pool for 38 years waiting for someone to carry him to the water …because he had accepted this was the pattern of his life. Jesus shows up and basically says, “Why have you been here so long? Pick up your bed and walk” WOW! that must have been a radical moment for the man… immediately his healing came with that sudden change of thought and expectation.

  4. Thanks, Diane! Sounds like we are in agreement re formality and ritualism in our churches.

    Love is… “vital!”

    (Please forgive the typo in my previous comment… Spellcheck made it “viral!”. Hey! One of these days, Christiam Science is going to go VIRAL!!

  5. Thank you Evan!
    It is not only the first reader but every member that contributes to the service by “swooping up” every attendee in love .
    When I first attended my current church, and enrolled my two children in the Sunday school, for three years no one spoke to me or even asked my name- until I finally joined the church. ( which was hard to do because I didn’t feel that wanted)
    It was as if I was invisible. Now our congregation is very aware of visitors and tries to welcome them with open arms. We have had many new members join our church in the past year. I think one of the things that helped was having quarterly Open Houses in our Sunday school- which was just a socializing time right after church with snacks. Many of our new members felt so welcomed that they joined .
    It’s about Love for one another. Some wise words I once heard, U R church.

    1. My sister and I had the exactly same experience CB…but it is NOT AT ALL like this now! It is now a loving happy place for all and everyone feels welcome.
      Also I guess you meant vital..but hey yes! CS going VIRAL would be great!!

  6. Evan,
    Well said! What you have addressed here is so important. The true mark of any religion or church is what it does for the people. It is not about the institution. That is the difference between what Christ Jesus did (and how he thought) and what the Pharisees did (and how they thought).

  7. One more comment from moi:
    I love hearing reports such as yours, CB, (except for the early part of your experience. :-((. Several of our members have abandoned ship for non-CS churches which have strong “fellowship.”

    Lots of dialogue in this … Vital! Subject will help wake us all up to what is needed.

    God will get us there.


    1. CB’s experience isn’t surprising. Thanks for sharing it CB. It helps to know that others have encountered similar and, in your case at least, pushed on through. I really wanted to become part of a CS church community and tried attending a few times for up to several months at a time. People were polite, if distant: Smiles and ”Goodmornings”, occasionally small talk about the weather but not personal openness. Eventually one person I hadn’t seen much of (not a regular attendee, I don’t know if a member) unexpectedly asked me a great many personal questions while saying hardly anything about herself, which was extremely uncomfortable. I still read the bible and S&H and this blog and watch the CS YouTube lectures, but I rarely go to church. I wonder if members realise how difficult it can feel for someone to keep attending without making any connections among increasingly familiar faces. Perhaps families, or at least people with children, get warmer welcomes in churches.

  8. Thank you Evan. You state correctly what our mission is about. If we look with that same compassion on the multitude, we will recognize our true mission is to heal through the Christ.

  9. What an inspired thought. I am the church service. Years ago the head usher was always shushing everybody. I don’t think shushing is the loving thing to do. I like the idea of Open House, but just Fellowship isn’t the whole answer? Many good ideas expressed. Again, my gratitude

  10. Such a timely message! Thank you so much for a message that is so needed.
    I recently decided to investigate just why it is that some non-denominational churches have such large numbers in attendance. I did this by attending services both in person and online. What I found was a genuine atmosphere of caring for every one who was attending. Often the message was clearly “you are loved by God and by us – and we value your presence!” Another amazing insight was that people who go to church often are in need of encouragement and are humble enough to recognize that they need help – at times material but most often spiritual – and the church members were loving enough (and humble enough) to realize that. Several churches with a large attendance took up the collection by passing a basket along every row, and one introduced it by saying “we’re going to take up an offering now and when the basket comes to you, if you have a need – take what you need – no one will criticize you – we want you to have what you need.” Isn’t that amazing? (They obviously trusted God with supervising it.) I am so grateful to see churches that recognize they are there to benefit people, and it’s not the other way around. One CS church on Wednesday night introduced the silent prayer by specifically telling those online and on the phone that they are included in the prayers! It made me feel that my presence was valuable too. Yes, Love is truly reflected in loving, and people do feel it when it is present in church. Thanks again for this article…

  11. Such a needed topic! I believe it strikes at the heart of church growth.

    Most Christian Science services I have attended are stiff, cold & overly formal. Readers drone in monotone. I am repeatedly told the reason is that many readers are advised to remove personality because that’s what Mrs. Eddy wanted.

    I’m not so sure.

    Readers would do well to ponder how Jesus, the prophets, apostles and Mary Baker Eddy likely delivered THEIR sermons. Were they cold, motionless and monotone? Could Jesus have gathered so many followers if his sermons were boring?

    The first time I attended one of Evan’s lectures I was so inspired, I thought to myself “this must be what it felt like to have been in the presence of Peter or Paul or John 2,000 years ago!” – a real disciple on fire with a healing message for mankind.

    Mrs. Eddy called The Bible and Science & Health “our only PREACHERS”. I’ve haven’t seen many “preachers” who were stone-cold and monotonous. Can we “stir the human mind to a change of base” in monotone? Can a STATUE “gush forth the comforting presence of Love”.

    When I read the manual about our church services and readership, I see SO MUCH left open to innovation and creativity. NOTHING therein says “be boring”.

    Anemic attendance & lack of multi-generational attendees – might point to the error of that Pharasaical advice.

    Let’s all sign up to be passionate readers of “the canonical writings together with the words of our textbook”. Let’s resurrect church! Let’s light this place up! We have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

    1. Rob, I absolutely agree with you! I think that Readers should be interviewed not elected. Let’s see if they’re truly passionate about these 2 books, The Holy Bible and Science and Health! I’m so tired of the monotone and lack of interest from the desk. It sounds like they’re reading right back to the books. No wonder so many fall asleep during the service. If they were reading to little ones, hopefully they would make these Bible stories come alive. I remember a few years back when the Reader read with such liveliness and passion that I felt that I was part of the narrative. I was so spellbound and inspired. Since then as a Reader I have tried to Read the same way as with lots of love for these wonderful greatest books in the history of mankind. Love, love, love! We live in Love, so let’s express Love with passion, this is our true nature. I’m sure Mrs. Eddy read with great passion. Have a fantastic day!

  12. Some CS services I have attended I have felt a lot of fear coming from the whole service – fear of the dwindling congregations.

  13. Thank you Evan, I love this. I think we as students of Christian Science can sometimes become “high-minded” and judge even one another in church: how attendees and members are handling things, how much noise they are making, whether or not people are becoming members,etc. We need to be watchful that we aren’t “the branch” removing ourselves from “the vine” as the lesson talks about this week. I used to get annoyed when it wasnt totally quiet before church because I liked to read. Now i feel a sense of love and fellowship when attendees interact and will join in if appropriate. Mortal mind is so tricky and subtle in the form of criticism. LOVE is always the law.

  14. I’m 56 years old and would like to briefly tell you about my experience in the CS church. I grew up in the Sunday school which was hard as a kid. Even though our town is fairly large, there were very few kids in our sunday school. I felt like a bit of an outcast during the week at “regular” school as most people back then thought CS was some kind of strange cult. On the other hand, my parents had a wonderful group of life long friends from the church. I think the experience I had in Sunday school drove a wedge between me and my future participation in the church as an adult. As kids, there were no activities for us outside of the Sunday school service that could have brought us closer together as a group. I was alway lonely at Sunday school and very grateful that my parents allowed me to go to church rather then Sunday school once in a while. However, as a kid, I always found the church services so uninspiring and couldn’t wait until they were over. I saw many of the older people sleeping during the service and felt like doing the same thing. As I reached adulthood, I realized I was showing up just to go through the motions of what I thought I should do. I understand why there are readers instead of preachers, but it was just so dry and matter of fact, that I felt I could accomplish more on my own. I was done feeling empty after our services and made the decision to stop attending.

    To this day, my three siblings and I regularly use Christian Science teachings in our daily lives but we all attend different Christian churches and are very happy there. I noticed that my experiences in the church are greater in number then just me. In 2017, the reading room in our town closed and moved into the church. Neighboring CS churches have closed all together. The younger people are not attending CS churches in our area regularly, or at all. I think the church services (and the Sunday school) have to somehow keep up with the times. I’m not saying flashing lights and rock music is the solution. But people (maybe just me) have needs that I don’t believe the church meets. We have the need to feel close to our Father and love him with all we are. We have the need to be a community and help each other to become better Christian Scientists. We have the need to have a better understanding of how to use Christian Science in our lives for the benefit of us and our world. I think our church met the first and most important need, but never went any further. I personally was always hoping to leave church feeling inspired to meet the new week head on by using the principles of CS and continually grow my love of Christ.

    This is just my experience and I hope I didn’t offend anyone. Christian Science is such an important religion that our world greatly needs now more then ever. I believe the church needs to act on the future before it’s too late. There are people aching for solutions to life’s problems and Christian Science has those solutions. They just going unheard as people forgo an uninspiring church service and decide to make it on there own. Christian Science needs to find a way to maintain the membership they have and attract the youth of today as the future of the church. It’s very disheartening to see any church have a regular downtrend in its membership.

    I read Spiritview everyday and am so grateful to Evan and to all who share here.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. I think many of us feel we are “outcasts” from the mainstream churches, which is why it is extremely important that we embrace our own in an outpouring of gratitude and love.

      Church should feel like extended family, full of warm and heartfelt brotherhood and care. The Bible says we are to be known for our love for the brethren!

      In our eagerness to follow Principle, I think Christian Science Churches can sometimes be short on expressing Love. We can do much better at striving to meet the human need with that tender, forgiving, but vibrant Mother-love that dissolves fear and loneliness.

      Going to church should feel like warm hug, welcoming you home.

  15. Thank you, Evan, for giving a broader understanding of that Bible quote. “Our church services were made to meet the needs of the people…” raises an additional question a church can ask in relation to the idea of needs. Can we strive to meet the needs of the people at our church services, both members and attendees? It is probably a broad list of needs, not just those of the majority of members at a church business meeting. The real questions might be – Can I love my neighbor as much as I love myself? Should I love my neighbor enough to meet his/her needs in addition to my own? Will I let go of unjustified fear and entrenched tradition to meet those needs?

  16. Thank you Evan. You are surely a shining light for the “right way” to go about sharing Christian Science. I’m sure you’re a great reader.

    A song came to mind when reading the comments today that has the following words…

    Let there be peace on earth
    And let it begin with me

    It’s very easy to get mesmerized by the “faults” of others. We can become so focused on others faults that it prevents us from letting our own light shine. So to those that saw a need for improvement in their churches and worked to enact that needed change, I say “bravo! thank you!”.

    The first few pages of the chapter Christian Science practice I think are so good in bringing out what is important in the practice of Christian Science…that willingness to love others with “pitful patience”. To “bind up the broken hearted”. Those are characteristics that are really needed in our churches and our lives.

  17. Well, Dave, your comments didn’t offend me at all, they are an expression of my life experience. After many years of active church membership and teaching Sunday School, without going into details, I finally after moving didn’t join the local branch church. I attended for about 10 years without becoming a member. Then I walked into a church and was greeted warmly. The reader was accurate, articulate, appreciative of the soloist and organist, and expressed so much love. I felt he was talking directly to me. I joined that church and shortly thereafter took class instruction in Christian Science. That was in 1980 and I have been active and devoted to Christian Science ever since. All branch churches must actively adhere to the definition of church as the structure of Truth and LOVE!
    P.S. I appreciate greatly all of the other comments also.

  18. Thank you for this vital and timely message Evan.
    When we look with that “same compassion on the multitude, we will recognize our true mission is to heal through the Christ.”

    The Comments are truly heartfelt. I appreciate Dave’s, Marianne, Trista, Nadine, Tyke, Rob, Lee, CB, Diane’s. I appreciate greatly all the other comments.

    Initially my experience as a student of CS where I lived for a few years was welcoming, loving and supportive. It was never suggested I needed to be a Member of a Branch Church. Then the First Reader ended his/her tenure, the atmosphere changed. I attended other CS churches, nearby. After which I relocated, and or travelled to other areas in USA only to experience what so many here have shared. For several reasons, many already mentioned, I no longer attend Church, where I live.

    I do hope that somehow this SPIRITVIEW, “Church Is To Meet The Needs of People,” 3/1/18 is sent to THE MOTHER CHURCH! and read by The Board, The Clerk, Principia, and also sent to EVERY Branch Church throughout the World! “CHURCH, the structure of TRUTH and LOVE.”

    1. Hi DebAnn,

      I am sure the board and other officials of The Motherchurch are reading Evan`s wonderful SpiritView, too day by day.

      I myself gave that absolute inspiring SpiritView of November 3, 2017 with the title “The church that is full” to all of the members of my branch church. Afterwards we had a prayerful meeting about “progress of church”, and all said, what a very good article of Evan that is.

  19. Thank you Evan for this beautiful reminder. I needed to hear this today.
    I have recently stopped attending services at our local branch church simply because of their not meeting the temporary human need for facilities for the handicapped. Although they are making plans for correcting that there is MUCH more effort being made to preserve the charming but ancient building than in meeting the immediate human need.
    Dave when our children were growing up in the CS Sunday School we had an active SS membership, a very active youth committee in the church. (I was the adult chairman) which was responsible for starting a very active Adventure Unlimited group outside the church. We had many youth activities outside the church including extended camping trips and fund raisers in the community to support these activities and other church activities.
    I don’t know if this sort of thing is still happening in some branches or not. I’m sure it must be. I do feel pretty sure that a church with no Sunday School is a church that it’s days are numbered.
    So far as reading church services with expression, the readers who are reading the services on JSH Online this month are good example. They read with expression and joy and are a joy to hear.
    Thank you all for your thoughtful and thought provoking contributions.

  20. Very thoroughly I studied Evan`s today`s SpiritView which is awfully much needed and to be thought about a lot!!

    I have the privilege to be a part of a reader pool which we established in our branch church. So I may read about every three weeks on the Wednesday service and as substitute for the second reader on Sundays.

    When I prepare the reading I listen to God for inspired passages which bless and might heal our congregation a n d the community where our church is located. I do love to read it lively and understandable, also when only a few visitors are attending the service.
    I think a reader`s heart should be on fire (spiritually) then the reading touches the hearts and minds of the visitors so that they cannot anymore be sleepy during the service.

    When Christ Jesus preached and talked to the multitudes he made their hearts burning. The Bible tells us this. And when I listened to Evan`s lectures via internet I was so inspired and awakened by that livelyness for which I still am very grateful!

    That is such a wonderful and so loving and utmost true thought Evan gave us today “Our church services were made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of our church services” and “When church services serve the attendee, more attendees are going to show up.” Yes, lets love our congregation and every visitor with all we are doing in Church and that will be the spiritual attraction of our church.

    Also Matthew 12, Vers 8 says “…for the sun of man is also Lord over the Sabbath!”

    Thank you immensely, dear Evan for this so important topic!

    And thank you SpiritView friends for your so good comments! Love to study them day by day!

    1. Uta,
      The reader pool sounds like a wonderful idea. I have not heard of that before. You bring out some good points. I agree with your statement “When church services serve the attendee, more attendees are going to show up.” And, I strongly believe that institutions that truly serve the people survive. The people they serve who have their needs met find ways of paying them back for what they are receiving. And, rather than looking at this from a point of view of frustration, I wonder if it could be viewed as a puzzle that could result in creativity and innovation in finding new answers that bring fulfillment to both those serving in the churches and those having needs that are not being met. I read about a church that gives services in a hospital a while back. I cannot imagine the fulfillment that would bring to those wanting to share Christian Science to those seeking answers, especially if they have a visitor who has been told they have an incurable disease.

  21. If we are healed in church, if some material belief is lessened or erased, if we feel the palpable love of Christ, we will “sign up” for more. But honestly, here’s the bottom line for Readers, ushers, members:
    “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
    If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all His mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain,”Jump, and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.” (I Corinthians 13, The Message version).
    LOVE, and yes, expressed humanly, is so needed in our churches. “The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus.” (SH p. 25:31).That’s why “his churches” were full.

    Not too many years ago, I came back to church. I had been praying unsuccessfully by myself to be free of pain. I walked into a small church in WA state, felt the utmost love and tenderness from the Readers and the membership, was healed that hour, and became a member of that branch church after many years of “going it alone.” I am thankful beyond words to be back. Church is US as one reader wrote. It’s up to us. Thank you, Evan, for opening a floodgate of ideas about church. The world needs Christian Science more than ever. “The vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science is Love.” (SH p. 113)

  22. Evan,
    Thank you so much for Speaking the Truth in Love. I still love & practice C.S. but after many years had to leave my branch church because I felt so judged & misunderstood for not always living up to the expectations of fellow members at that church. I hope everyone in the movement sees this article and that we are all moved to search our hearts on how to love and serve our communities. Many thanks to everyone who responded in the comments section.

  23. Hi Grace,
    thank you for sharing your experience and testimony with us – so loving!

    And hi Former Member,
    sympathy and love to you!
    Perhaps it helps you somehow, reading the following verses from the NLT:
    Matthew 10, Vers 14: “If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.”
    I would add ” without anger and with prayer for God`s further guidance of your way to a loving church.”

  24. Thank you Evan for this article and your blog. And, thank you all for your comments, including Dave for his honesty. This quote stood out to me this week, “The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus.” (pg 5 S&H by MBE) She did not use the word “by” the humanity of Jesus. Implying no separation between the divinity of the Christ in the action of the humanity of Jesus. So in applying this to church and daily life, the demonstration of the Christ is all important to healing. The divine made manifest in the humanity, is wholeness, healing, love expressed as Evan described so well.

  25. Thank you, Evan , and thank you to all those who have sent in replies. We are in the process of renovating a building for our ‘new’ church and this message is so helpful in giving ideas of what qualities we want to express when planning the layout to make just entering the building a warm and welcoming experience.

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