The Gospel and Church Attendance

One of my favorite things is having conversations with people who are older and wiser than I am. There is immense value in learning from someone who has lived a full life; they have perspective that is impossible for anyone else to posses because it only comes with time and experience. An interesting and precious component of the generation of Believers that is currently in the latter stages of life is how notorious they are for being at church every Sunday. They take very seriously Sunday School prayer lists and church dinners on Wednesday nights before prayer meeting. While they didn’t do everything right, because none of us ever will, they sought out intentional community and when they found it, they dug deep and stayed there.

Nowadays, people aren’t plugging into the body of Christ the way we’re called to. People show up to church to be entertained, not to be transformed. It takes work to have your life changed, and it seems like hardly anyone wants to put in the effort to do it.

Despite the fact that the statistics have been familiar for the past few years, recently I was so burdened by the reality that most people are only coming to church an average of once a month I sat in my bed and began praying. I prayed that God would raise up a mighty generation of warriors. That we would be bold. Fearless. Tenacious.

And then I prayed that we would be faithful. That God would give us perseverance. Because boldness only goes as far as faithfulness will take it.

I think that’s one thing my generation is best at – being bold. We are probably more opinionated than any other generation before us. We will show up and tell you what we think, but we struggle staying planted long enough to see change come to fruition. Whether it be in ourselves, in our relationships, or in the communities around us.

We’re always looking for the next shiny thing that catches our eye as the wave of trends beats heavily against the walls of our minds. Our greatest fear is not treating ourselves enough and missing out on our best life.

But commit to something? To choose it and to stay even when it’s hard, inconvenient, not glamorous, and no fun? Probably not going to happen. Why would you when there are a million other options attractively vying for your attention and marketing themselves as the ticket to your peace, satisfaction, relaxation, or ultimate enjoyment? We’ve been told if it feels like work or sacrifice, it’s toxic and we deserve better. But the truth is, anything that grows requires work. If we want growth, we have to work. We have to put in as much or more as we take out.

And if we never commit ourselves to intentional, Biblical community, are we really able to fully be transformed by the power of the gospel or fulfill the great commission?

This leads into the strong misconception that “ministry” belongs to those employed by the church, everyone else just comes to be filled up by those who are doing what they get paid to do.

This is not so. We each have equal responsibility to carry the Gospel wherever we go. It is not a piece of who we are, it consumes and transforms every piece of who we are until we are no longer the same. We are consistently dying to our flesh in order to come alive in the Spirit.

But when we compartmentalize, when we leave ministry to those who are on church staff so that we can focus on living our own lives, then we see no need to come to church. Because both church and the Gospel have become about us. When we buy into this feel good gospel narrative, we choose salvation for our own convenience, not the sake of others and not even for the sake of becoming like Christ.

Everything is preaching a message to us, nothing is neutral, and we live in a world that has made us consumers by preaching that life is about our satisfaction. On the contrary, the Gospel was never about us. In some sense, yes, because it involves us. But we are not the key players. The Gospel, as everything else, is about Jesus. The work that He did on the cross and through His resurrection in order to do a great work of resurrection in us. When we miss the point of the Gospel, we miss the point of church. When we truly grasp the Gospel, we grasp the mission of the church. We become absorbed in it. Just as you become absorbed in your spouse upon marrying them, as the bride of Christ, He and His mission become our mission, our obsession, our purpose.

I think the reason flaky church attendance weighs so heavy on those of us staring it in the face is because people are missing it. Not the religiosity that maybe they feel adverse to, but the transformation that comes from the life-giving heartbeat of God that is carried out by His children through the structure of His church. It is a big deal. Because it is indicative not only of how seriously people view God, but how deeply they don’t understand themselves and the immense value and purpose they have as His child.

God wants so much more for us and we should want so much more for us.

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