I’ll start with the exceptions: fever, vomiting, Ebola, surgery, heart attack, travel, ox in the ditch, etc. I could add to this list, but you’ve got the idea. These are legitimate reasons for not participating in a church event. I’m tired, the ball game is on, Aunt Susie is visiting from out of town, one of our three kids has a runny nose, I have nothing to wear, I’ll skip Sunday School and go to Worship, Wednesdays are busy, that particular activity (fill in your own) is not my thing, etc. I could add to this list, but you’ve got the idea. These are often (not always), illegitimate excuses for not participating in the family’s (i.e., the church’s) activities.
One of the glories of being a part of the Body of Christ is that we receive benefits from all the other people; from the whole Body. However, there is a reciprocal duty, which is that each of us must contribute to the Body (Eph. 4:16). It’s one of the great lessons that every real grown-up must learn: it’s not all about me and what I want. Moreover, since parents are raising grownups (not children); the parents have to set the example and insist that their children participate as well―and not just participate―they have to get happy about it. There are many things we need to do that we don’t want to do. Nevertheless, having done our duty, and having loved our neighbors as ourselves, we do reap benefits from having sacrificed for others.
One of the questions we should ask ourselves as we make participation decisions is: “Is this a legitimate reason (see above), or is this a selfish reason?” “I don’t want to” is a sentiment that needs to be probed a bit deeper. Sometimes, the fact that a person doesn’t want to participate points to a more serious problem than does their simple absence from an activity. You don’t want to be with other believers? You don’t want to get to know them and serve them? Why don’t you want to? Why are you more comfortable with a remote control, a game console, a keyboard and a mouse than you are with real people? The answer, of course, is that real people are hard and we don’t like to do hard things. But doing hard things turns us into better people. Denying ourselves for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ makes us more like Christ.