I have often read that the average committed Christian of twenty years ago would go to church three to four times a month whereas now the average committed christian goes to church only two to three times a month. Maybe you are one of these people who only goes once every few weeks or maybe only once a month. I dare say there are some weeks when you or the kids are sick. Then there are time when there is that family thing you have to go to or it will cause world war three in your clan. Throw in your yearly vacation and you look back on your year and you find you have only gone to church a few times a month and some times only once a month.
But then there are some of us who just couldn’t be bothered to go to church sometimes. You really don’t wan’t to hear another sermon, speak to the same people and then go home without having felt really anything. It is sometimes so much easier to just stay at home isn’t it?
What has happened? One factor is that less families go to church and the culture is less christian than it was twenty years ago so more families and community groups are meeting on Sundays. Another factor could be that we are generally over worked and over stimulated and so we seek as much space as we can to rest and so church can get relegated to an optional extra because we need that rest. For some of us I am sure these are factors. But I think what is the biggest factor is our worldview. If you were born from 1970 onwards you have been part of a generation who has had, compared to previous generations, the best of everything, the best toys, the best clothes, the best entertainment, the best technology etc. This has all been on tap and ready to go. Add tot his we have had people telling us that it is all about us. At school we were told that we were precious little snowflakes that were unique and special. Advertising tells us that we are worth it and we need to get all we can because life is all about self actualization. This worldview breeds two things things in us. Firstly, it breeds an attitude where we judge things based on short term feelings not long long term outcomes. Generally people today do things for the instant gratification that we receive not for the impact that it will have in the future. So when Sunday rolls around and we have to decide between going to church (which we all acknowledge that regular church attendance will be beneficial in the long term) and doing something that will give me instant gratification we often choose what is easy and quick. The second thing our culture breeds in us is a me first attitude. I want to know what I can get out of the thing I am participating and this reward must instantly recognizable and discernible. So if I haven’t received an instantly recognizable and discernible reward from going to church, if church hasn’t “done anything” for me lately, if the sermon or the music or something else in the service hasn’t gripped me, I will find it so much easier to not go because I don’t feel like I am growing.
If my analysis is right then what is the solution to this problem? There are a brace of solutions but surely my generation must start by having a bigger vision of church. What we don’t realize God is going to do more in us and through us in church that we can ever imagine and this work may not be readily seen or felt but God is working. As you sing in church you are reminding everyone of the faith they have in Jesus so they are encouraged and also you are proclaiming the gospel to the non christian that comes into church As you choose to serve others you are proclaiming to yourself that your life is not about you but others. As you hear from the preacher you are reminded of what is real and what is not, what is significant and what is not. You are being reminded of who you are and that God will not let you go and that you are loved beyond measure. As you are reminded about these things you will go out into your work week with more confidence, more steadfastness. And you will be resolute for when the trials of this world come. As you participate in church you don’t know what God is going to do through you. Maybe it was just saying hello to the newcomer that encouraged them to come back next week and hear once again about Jesus’ love for them which in turn helped them put their faith in Jesus. Or maybe it was asking that member of your church how they were going that made them feel loved and cared for once again and that was a key to them staying at church and staying in the faith.
Is this hyperbole? No it isn’t because these things were the small seemingly significant things that God uses to keep me in the church and in the faith every week. They are the things that he has used and will keep using until he comes back to do bring people into his church, to encourage to bring them to faith.
If you take a Sunday off you are missing out on the eternally significant work that God is going to do in you and through. When your heart rejoices in what God is going to do as you go to church how could you stay away?
When you you realize what God is doing in church every time you go there, hanging with your mates, going to that family thing, watching TV or playing Xbox or whatever it may be that you would do instead of going to church looks positively boring.