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Why I don’t like taking attendance at church


Many of you will have used apps like Jethro and Elvanto to manage your church or ministry group.  As a software engineer, I’m naturally all-in on using technology to make your workflow more efficient.  I will be the first to admit that many features of these apps are quite useful (e.g. I love being able to quickly check online to see what rosters I’m on this week).  However, there’s one aspect of these apps that I actively refuse to participate in: tracking attendance.

Why?  Because I don’t think there is any valid use for a centralised store of church attendance data.  Decentralised is another matter.  If you’re a small-group leader, it may help you to keep a reminder for yourself that someone was away this week so that you can call them and check they’re okay.  What is not needed is for you to add that record to a centralised repository, where it will likely be stored long-term and be accessible to all the church staff.
In my opinion, no good comes of this.

It will be used by some “visionary” pastor to decide which tough sermons drove people away.  It will be used as leverage to emotionally manipulate members with imperfect attendance.  It will be used to prop up a pastor’s pride because the church is growing.  It’s busybodies that need centralised attendance data, not pastors.  Real pastoral ministry gets along fine without it.  If you’re worried that people are “slipping through the cracks”, the solution is better delegation of pastoral care, not micromanaging people’s attendance habits.

There were surely people in Israel and Judah keeping a personal headcount of their own children.  But David’s sin was in creating a centralised record of it all to support his ego (2 Samuel 24).  May God keep us from repeating that mistake.

The Impotence of Secular Christendom


Perhaps the most immoral of all is the injunction to love your enemies.  That I will not do.  I know who my enemies are.  At the moment, the most deadly ones are Islamist theocrats with a homicidal and genocidal agenda.  I’m not going to love them, you go love them if you want.  Don’t love them on my behalf, I’ll get on with killing them, destroying them, erasing them and you can love them.  But the idea that you ought to love them is not a moral idea at all, it’s a wicked idea, and I hope it doesn’t take hold… What a disgusting order, to love those people!  Destroy them.
– Christopher Hitchens

This is where the difference between Christianity and mere Secular Christendom shines forth.  The Christian says wholeheartedly “we MUST love our enemies!  The Lord Jesus loved us when we were his enemies, and he commands us to do likewise!”  The secularist who has merely inherited the culture of Christian values finds this infuriating and intolerable.

As Islamic terrorism becomes a primary issue in elections around the world, we need to be reminded that secularism is impotent to address the problem of evil.  Both the atheist-left and the atheist-right can offer no solution.  A secular society that has inherited Christian values will be much better off than a society without them.  But it is not sustainable.  When attacked by true evil, the impulse of Secular Christendom is simply to return fire.  Only true Christianity gives a basis for facing the evil in the world, addressing it with wisdom and force if necessary, and yet remaining determined to love the people who are doing that evil.

In Defence of Individualism


The generation of pastors and teachers I have learned from have tended to be very down on individualism. They are often heard telling young whipper-snappers like me that “your generation is so individualistic!”. They seem to mean this as a harsh criticism. But if they are right (and I’m not entirely persuaded that they are), then I think they are wrong to find fault with us for it.

Individualism is a good thing. People feeling more free to make the conscientious decision to be Christians, as individuals rather than by default (e.g. because of family or national allegiance), is a good thing. A culture of individualism is the only possible solution to the twin evils of persecution and nominalism.

But, truth be told, I don’t think “defending individualism” is nearly as outrageous as it sounds. I think very few people who decry individualism really mean it. I think they are just confusing their words. Individualism really means the strong conviction that individuals ought to have responsibility for, and authority over, their own life choices. I think that often what people really mean when they say “individualism” is “selfishness”. But those two things are not the same. Individualism is the opposite of collectivism. Selfishness is the opposite of love. You can be a loving individualist and you can be a selfish collectivist.

I recommend the former.