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Making Faithful Attendance a Priority

I have often listened as church members voiced their best intentions of attending church and Sunday school, but then I have watched as travel plans, minor aches and pains, or the lure of a round of golf or another trip to the lake deter them from faithful attendance and participation.

A few years later, our church began affirming faithful attendance by presenting Sunday school pins to individuals with perfect attendance. The pins were usually awarded at intervals of six months, one year and five years of attendance. Often, a dozen or more people would be recognized for making Sunday school such a significant priority.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
When I moved to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Kentucky, I discovered that Cecil Hays, a longtime member of First Baptist Church of Corbin, had been awarded a 50-year Sunday school pin. That’s 50 years of attending Sunday school without missing a single Sunday.
 
Mr. Hays died a couple of years ago. During his memorial service, I acknowledged his perfect attendance and added that he had been a faithful choir member for 77 years. After the memorial service, someone lamented to me, “I bet we’ll never see that kind of faithfulness again.”
 
Is faithful attendance and radical dedication to church and Sunday school a thing of the past? A recent article in the Alabama Baptist noted the faithful attendance of Irene Box Anderson of Sulligent, Ala. Anderson has taught the first- and second-grade department at First Baptist Church for more than 43 years without missing a Sunday, and she shows no sign of slowing down.
 
She recently celebrated her 73rd birthday, and her commitment to children remains as strong as ever. Working in Sunday school is “just such a blessing to me,” Anderson said. “It seems like I miss a meal if I don’t attend. I just have to get to church on time.”
 
I have often listened as church members voiced their best intentions of attending church and Sunday school, but then I have watched as travel plans, minor aches and pains, or the lure of a round of golf or another trip to the lake deter them from faithful attendance and participation.
 
Mrs. Anderson’s dedication hasn’t wavered despite the loss of loved ones, sickness or even surgery. In February 1977, she convinced her doctors to reschedule an operation so she could make it to church to teach. “I don’t do it to show off, and it’s not a duty,” Anderson said. “I just love the Lord, and I do it with the love of my heart.”
 
In a postmodern age, maybe that is still the key to faithfulness: Love for the Lord has to be a priority in the heart and on the calendar.
 
Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.