The Bible as a whole is a long, sequential story of God’s revelation to man. A faithful preacher must preach through the whole counsel of God one verse, paragraph, chapter and book at a time. To attend a church the way you do is the equivalent of like hearing a phone conversation that drops the last third of every sentence. It is like reading a book which misprinted every other page as blank, or listening to a tune which omitted a third of the notes. The point is, you would not be able to make sense of what you are hearing. That’s exactly why your kind of church attendance does not promote growth. You can only grow through understanding of the Word, and understanding comes through connecting a very long series of biblical dots. Because your attendance is so sporadic, it is simply impossible to connect those dots.
I’m glad you’re taking the new year as an opportunity to seek real spiritual growth. Yes, I did write to Mike, and he has obviously experienced some benefit, so I am happy to write similarly to you, as you’ve requested.
William, you are a first-generation Christian. That is, your parents were not Christians who practised regular spiritual disciplines. Our parents are the ones who shape many of the routines and rhythms of our adult lives. We tend to model and continue the rhythm of life that our parents bequeathed to us, with modifications. That means, lacking such an example from your parents, you have to learn the disciplines associated with church life from scratch. Your parents did not teach you, so you have to learn elsewhere.
Unfortunately, many people in your position make a fundamental error. Thinking that church is akin to certain other public gatherings, they treat it in the same way. For example, they think a church service is closest to attending a concert, or a speech, or a political rally, or a public lecture, or a hobby club or society. Therefore, they treat it similarly: they attend it as regularly as they would one of those events, they mingle or socialise at about the same level of familiarity or superficiality, and they involve themselves with a similar level of commitment.
What that looks like, at least in your case, is that you attend about three out of every seven Sundays. You probably don’t notice it, but that means you’re in church 22 Sundays out of the 52. Or to put it another way, you’re in church for five months of the year, and absent for seven.
Now lest you think this is all about numbers, let me explain why your Christian growth will be stunted or extremely slow with this pattern of attendance.
The first is the concept of continuity. Many immature Christians think that church attendance on a Sunday is like going to see a standalone movie: an encapsulated whole, with no connections outside itself. They have no concept of one Sunday being integrally connected to the previous or succeeding Sundays. For them, church is like going to the gym, or having your hair cut: it might be good for you, it’s good to go back, but each attendance is a discrete, freestanding spiritual experience.
They couldn’t be more wrong. Church attendance, to have any real benefit in your life, functions by growing in understanding of an ongoing, continuous exposition of the Word. A sequential, weekly, verse-by-verse exposition of Scripture is how we gain a large-scale, coherent, and comprehensive Christian worldview. The Bible is a collection of books that have beginnings, middles and endings. The Bible as a whole is a long, sequential story of God’s revelation to man. A faithful preacher must preach through the whole counsel of God one verse, paragraph, chapter and book at a time. To attend a church the way you do is the equivalent of like hearing a phone conversation that drops the last third of every sentence.