Every gathering of God’s people is a place where God brings his transformative power, where God spills his love out over his people, and where he calls unbelievers to himself. Don’t stop believing in God’s church. And don’t miss out on your opportunity to invite the many who are disconnected from God’s family to come and see what God is doing.
There was a time when going to church is what respectable people did. Church was a place not just of worship, but, for the worldly-minded, of upward mobility. My childhood was at the tail end of these days. When I was in sixth grade, our family became acquaintances with a businessman at church. My mom and dad ended up doing business with him only to be burned by his less-than-ethical business dealings. Church, it turned out, was just a handy place for him to expand his business.
Long gone are those days. And good riddance to them. I have no desire to have our society return to “the good old days” of church attendance done for the sake of appearances.
Any vestige of attending church because it is the right thing to do was killed by Covid. With online services and world class worship artists a click away, why go to your local church? Why not just sleep in?
But the local church is not just a dispenser of spiritual wares, it is the local manifestation of God’s people, where we are called to serve and love. I long for people to come to church not because I want an outdated institution propped up. Attending your local church isn’t propping up the last physical movie rental store in your zip code. Participating in your local church is choosing to encounter your holy and loving God in the presence of his people, experience the warmth of God’s family, and steward the gifts God has given you for the sake of others.
A recent survey asked people why they do and don’t attend church. Those who attend cited reasons such as “to get closer to God,” “because I find the sermons valuable,” and “to be part of a faith community” as some of their answers. Those who don’t attend listed these as their top reasons for not attending:
1. I practice my faith in other ways
2. I am not a believer
3. I haven’t found a church I like
4. I don’t like the sermons
5. I don’t feel welcome
That’s a helpful glimpse into the heart of the non-church attender. You might notice that four of the five reasons don’t have anything to do with their beliefs. That means that the most significant objection you might fear from your neighbor (disagreeing with your faith) is unlikely to be the main reason they aren’t attending.
If we consider that in a town like Tucson somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of residents very rarely, if ever, attend church, each of these reasons represents a huge number of people. An argumentative approach is certainly not the way to go. Instead, lovingly addressing each of these concerns is far more effective.