Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
Last Tuesday, I sat at a meeting with area clergy from the Mountain Lakes, Denville, Boonton, and Rockaway areas. The question was presented to us, “In what area of ministry do you feel most helpless?” One answer, which was echoed by everyone gathered, was the undeniable and frustrating apathy that the general population has towards the church. Across the denominational spectrum, numbers have dropped and pastors are discouraged. Many blamed the past pandemic. Certainly, a factor, but I don’t buy it for the present. It’s a convenient excuse more than anything. People will spend money, drive distances, and assemble in crowds without any hesitation when it comes to sporting events, concerts, birthday parties, and food festivals. People simply don’t care about the church. They’re too busy. They’re not interested. They’re chasing after their modern-day golden calves. Thousands of years ago, the prophet Jeremiah observed that the people he was sent to serve had also run away from God, “…Judgement will be upon their wickedness, who have forsaken [the Lord] and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands… My people, [says the Lord], have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (1:16, 2:13) Sadly, not much has changed. How can the church at large increase our impact if people don’t show up? How can we grow together and in our relationship with Jesus if we only sporadically spend time together? How can we advertise and sell a life-giving product to the outside world, if we are not using and rejoicing in it ourselves?
Recently, this math was shared with me to ponder in regard to church attendance. If a person came to church this year each Sunday (53 weeks) and then also for the midweek gatherings (9 hours total) and special services (5 hours) you would spend about 70 hours hearing God's Word, receiving Holy Communion, and singing His praises.
70 hours. Total. For the year.
Add 53 more hours if a person also wanted to attend a weekly Bible Study. Total for attending church and Bible study = 120 hours—for the entire year. Here are the numbers, on average in a year Americans spend (from the 2017 Bureau of Labor and Statistics Time Spent study):
None of those things are bad in and of themselves, yet seeing the numbers compared to one another might help you understand just how weekly church and Bible study attendance is really not a priority in the lives of most Americans. It is not that hard and does not take a huge chunk out of your life when compared to other things we so gladly do. If only the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh hated television like they do church attendance... right?
The church is not a club to join or group to belong to. It is not a place that can be found or duplicated by anyone else; it has not become irrelevant and will never become antiquated. The church continues to be the only “organization” that was instituted by God. It is the only community He sacrificed Himself for. God is the architect and builder of this temple. He is the founder and presider. For this reason, it is impossible to overstate the importance of the church in the eternal plan of God. The church is His building, His bride. It is where He shows up to grace, redeem, and grow His beloved people. Our heavenly Father, the Creator Himself, pledges that the church—that universal body of believers under Christ’s headship—will have a visible being and a testimony in this world as long as the world itself lasts. Do you remember this promise of Jesus? “… On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18) All the enemies of truth combined shall never secure the defeat or destruction of the church. We are on stable ground, a firm foundation.
Remember you are baptized. You are a member of His body, a part of His family. This is where your God invites you. This is where He promise to show up to meet you, to listen to your prayers, to comfort your sorrows.
This is where He forgives you.
This is where He feeds you.
Your pew is the sweet, Gospel reception spot.
Make the time. Come to church.
“Belonging to a church means investing your life in a gospel-centered community of believers who joyfully serve one another and advance Jesus’ mission together.” (Tony Merida)
“The church isn’t just a particular building or congregation, but the spiritual fellowship of all who belong to Jesus Christ.” (Billy Graham)
“If Church history teaches us anything, it is that we cannot afford to be a vacillating Church. We minister to a people who are in great need of hearing truth; we dare not make any attempt to soft pedal that glorious truth.” (Martin Luther)
Pastor Steve Vera