An increasing number of people miss church on Sundays, or other times during the week when primary worship services or small groups gather. The average number of weeks active Christians attend church is decreasing. The benchmark of at least 48 Sundays per year that marked true church commitment when I was growing up has sunk below 39 weeks per year. No one knows where it will bottom out.
Much of the conversation I hear about this center on churches having to work harder to maintain their attendance–much less grow. Churches struggle to have enough volunteers in place on Sundays to cover all the areas of responsibility. So called “committed Christians” are not making up their financial gifts to the church when they are not present. Thankfully there are still enough committed tithers and people who feel an obligation to fulfill their annual financial pledges.
Couple this with the reality that churches still count attendance by the number of individuals present instead of the number of households present, and the result is that the percentage of congregations who are plateaued or declining in attendance is increasing.
So What If You Missed!
It’s just a Sunday. What’s the big deal? The participation of children in sports is an important part of their lives. Practice and games meet on Sunday. Family is important. Sunday is the only day some families can all together or visit with other family members who live out-of-town. Is not quality time as family a Christian value?
Work is important. Some people have to work on Sundays. Some people go into their office to work on Sundays because that is when they can get things done. Bosses give assignments on Friday afternoons and they want the project ready on Monday morning.
Blue laws that kept some types of businesses closed on Sunday are gone. People dine out, shop, get their cars repaired, and everything else on Sundays. If Christians would refrain from dining, shopping, and repairing perhaps the businesses would not be open on Sunday. You think?
As one mother said, “With the busy-ness of life, Sunday is a day we can do the various activities of life which we cannot do without. We know God. God knows us. We’ve been baptized. We belong to the church. Is that not enough?”
“Besides,” he husband adds, “It is just the pastor’s agenda that we all show up on Sunday so it will look like the pastor is doing a good job. We do not need to go to church every Sunday out of guilt that if we miss people will think less of us. Their attitude is probably not Christ-like.”
You Mean I Should Do Something Because I Missed?
All of the excuses for missing church on Sunday are part of an exercise in missing the point. Church is not a club to which you belong where you pay dues and attend activities when it is convenient. Church is not a subscription to a magazine, web site, or news feed with which you connect on your own time schedule.
In fact, it isn’t really about church.
Church—well actually Christianity—is about a 24/7/365 relationship with the Triune God. As such God is worthy of our worship and praise. As such it is a relationship to cultivate continually, not because God needs it but because we need it.
In the same way, our relationship with God is enriched through continual focus and cultivation. It is not episodic. It is constant. It is not reserved for Sunday. It is about every day. Every day is a day the Lord has made and we can rejoice and be glad in it.
The bottom line is that whether or not we find ourselves in community with other believers most every Sunday, we need a Sabbath experience in our lives on a regular basis. Weekly is not even often enough. Something about every day must be a Sabbath experience. Still yet, on a weekly basis if Sunday is not a full day of Sabbath, we must find a day for Sabbath.
If we do not we suffer in our spiritual formation. Many people say we will also suffer physically, emotionally, and in our sense of community with people in general—not just other churchgoers.
Not going to church this Sunday? That’s O.K. Not having a meaningful Sabbath experience this week. That’s not O.K. The discipline of gathering with other believers enhances the discipline of Sabbath. Do not discount the potential of that great experience.