Why do churches have so many older people on the membership roll who never attend the gathering of the church on Sunday morning? I have come to the conclusion that a large portion of them are not really shut-ins at all. It is not so much that they are unable to attend church, but that they are unwilling to attend. The same people who are on the membership roll as shut-ins still leave the house to go to the doctor when they need to or have a friend drive them where they need to go. Most shut-ins could go to church if they really wanted to. They could ask another member of the church to give them a ride on Sunday morning or call the pastor to ask him to send someone to pick them up so they can go to church. But they choose not to.
So why is this? I believe the reason is because they are bitter and angry with God. Because God has not given them what they wanted in life, they refuse to go to church as a means of getting back at God. Because God has not given them what they want: health, prosperity, a happy marriage, and children who do not die before they do, they refuse to give God what he wants: worship. In their old age, they are revealing the true condition of their heart. By removing themselves from the fellowship of the church on Sunday morning, they are unknowingly practicing church discipline on themselves when the church did not have the courage to remove them earlier when they first stopped attending. To leave the church is to leave Christ (1 John 2:19). True Christians are marked by love for God and for one another (1 John 3:10, 14). But if someone is not part of the gathering of a local church, how can he show love for the brothers of Christ?
So what should churches do about all the shut-ins on the membership roll who are not really shut-ins? Of course there are some people who really are shut-in and confined to their bed. But those people usually do not have much longer to live and their absence from the church is only temporary until they are taken into glory. But for those shut-ins who are able to come to church on their own power or through the assistance of others, the church should admonish them gently to return to the fellowship of the church and offer them any assistance they need (1 Tim 5:1). If they still refuse to listen, then the church should begin the process of church discipline in Matthew 18 which may end with that person being removed from the membership of the church. By not attending, they have already removed themselves from the membership of the church and the final stage of church discipline is only making formal what has already happened informally.