Thinking Out Loud

July 19, 2015

The Increasing Number of Church Dropouts

We are in the middle of a church attendance crisis. What was always a weekly occurrence for individuals and families is often, at very best, only twice a month. Some are skipping entire months at a time. Others have simply discontinued the church habit, with no return in sight.

While some continue the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study, others are more certain to have their absence from weekend worship signal a drift away. Twice in 1 Timothy 6:10 and 6:21, Paul uses the phrase “wandered from the faith.” The micro-context is “the love of money” and worldly influences; but clearly a faith that was more anchored would not drift.

We could look at all the factors that are in play right now causing many to give up a lifetime of church participation, but today I would rather focus on the positives; the things we gain by gathering together.

FellowshipFellowshipThere is so much to be gained from community. The small group movement has made this even more meaningful. As Andy Stanley says, “It’s harder to fall out of a circle than it is to fall out of a row.” When we worship in a larger body, we’re also observing other people at worship, hearing their testimonies, and witnessing the spiritual growth taking place in their lives. We’re also putting ourselves in a place to minister to others.

Corporate PrayerIt’s hard to participate in “If two of you will agree as touching anything on earth” prayers by yourself. There is something to be said for coming into God’s presence en masse and then interceding on behalf of individuals facing great needs, our spiritual leaders, the local and national government, and the work of God around the world.

Personal PrayerThe obvious consequence of corporate prayer is that there are people available to pray with you when it’s your need that is uppermost.

Corporate Worship Even if you don’t like the song, or don’t prefer the style, there are many intangible blessings of being part of a local assembly lifting their voices in praise that simply can’t be duplicated at home. I know those “worship moments” in nature are meaningful, and singing in the car with a worship CD turned up loud can be inspiring, but in my life, many corporate worship occasions have been life highlights.

GivingYou can give online, of course, but many people don’t. In the offering, we participate together in financing God’s work in the local church and are made aware of the needs of missions operating throughout the world.

Confession Many services offer a call to go forward or stand or raise a hand and through a physical action affirm that God is speaking to us about a particular aspect of the day’s teaching. Even a short time of silence gives us an opportunity to respond to God in ways that might never come about through watching a sermon on a computer or television, where ‘dead air’ isn’t desirable.

CommunionThis is last, but certainly not least. The modern “breaking of bread” service, or Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist has a direct connection to the Passover meal. As we receive the bread and wine in community we do so in humility and thanksgiving for what Christ has done for us.

These are just a few of the benefits that occur when we don’t give up meeting together. 


Appendix: Support scripture passages:

We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming. – Hebrews 10:25 GW

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer… And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had…They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity. – Acts 2: 42, 44, 46 NLT

I was gladdened when they said to me, “We are going to the house of Lord Jehovah”! – Psalm 122:1 Aramaic Bible in Plain English


Christianity:

Coming under the loving Lordship of Jesus Christ and being joined to a company of imperfect people who are trying to live a new life in a new way.
~ Larry Tomczak (circa 1976)

 

 

 

 

6 Comments »

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more. Some of my best revelations came while worshipping with my brothers and sisters. And not just on Sundays. I have sought and found many answers to my life challenges by attending prayer meetings on Tuesdays.

    Thanks Paul. Keep on encouraging us. God bless you.

    Comment by JRosemarie — July 20, 2015 @ 6:24 am

  2. Good post Paul. I often found myself going to church out of duty to the Lord. I attended, because I knew I should. Even though I often felt empty when I left. Instead of giving up on church, I kept seeking a fellowship that was worth not giving up on!

    There are many reasons people are not going to church, and leadership needs to figure that out and fix the holes in the ship before it sinks. Those of us in the pew must not give up gathering together. Find a fellowship that is getting it right and plug in there!

    Comment by Jim — July 20, 2015 @ 8:52 am

  3. Andy Stanley, in writing about the necessity of friendship and fellowship in a church, said this, “It’s harder to fall out of a circle than it is to fall out of a row.”

    Comment by yokedwithhim — July 20, 2015 @ 9:11 am

  4. Quote: “Twice in 1 Timothy 6:10 and 6:21, Paul uses the phrase “wandered from the faith.” The micro-context is “the love of money” and worldly influences; but clearly a faith that was more anchored would not drift.”

    I don’t think it’s fair to lump everyone into the category of ‘drifters’ (from the faith) if our church attendance is lax. It may be lax for a number of reasons such as health (often in my case) or lack of relativity. Relativity in the sense that there is no community you feel you can related to. When you’re mid 50’s, childless, and the rest of the bunch in the congregation is octogenarian OR young kids and young parents, it’s really really hard to feel connection and get ‘plugged in’. Nancy and I have had to resort (successfully, I might add) to a lot of ‘church at home’ Sundays where we enjoy a fantastic sermon from the likes of Charles Price, Joe LoSardo or John Ortberg, and then discuss the issues in our lives or on the topics covered by the preacher du jour.

    That being said, we hope – like Jim above – to find the right congregation to feel connected to one day, but as of now, that seems to be illusive, despite us living in a fairly diverse, urban area north of Toronto.

    Our faith is not anchored in church attendance, but in Christ. Many believers just can’t get out on Sundays – now that the work-world has many folks handcuffed … Lord’s Day off? … yeah, 20 years ago, sure.

    No on wants to be alone in their faith experience, and sometimes the needs are met via online experiences/connection and community. It’s still church. Mode – modern.

    Jesus’ sheep know His voice. And their faith isn’t going anywhere if truly, the ‘Father has given them to Him’ … they will not be plucked from His hand. The faithful will continue – whether housed with other believers for a Sunday service or in their own home – to investigate the truths of Christ and search the Word for their strength. Amen.
    M&N

    Comment by Flagrant Regard — July 20, 2015 @ 6:14 pm

    • This was meant to be a very short weekend post on the benefits of being part of a local Christian community, that appeared both here and at C201. My goal was to not have it skew negative. I think for you the trigger was the second paragraph. My only hope here is to try to paraphrase my own opening sentence in that paragraph:

      “While on the one hand you have people who continue in their devotion to God and in spiritual disciplines while not attending a local assembly, on the other hand you have people for whom dropping out of church indicates what Paul in I Timothy would call a drifting away from their faith.”

      Does that help clarify it?

      Your last paragraph however presupposes perseverance of the saints (eternal security) which not all readers here would agree with.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — July 20, 2015 @ 8:10 pm

  5. Yes, Paul, the new rephrase does clarify things greatly. Thank you. :-)

    That’s funny you suggest that I suggest we seem to endorse ‘eternal security’. When we read the letter to the Hebrews, we definitely find that we can’t buy that nonsense. That being stated, we have an interesting way of reconciling our pseudo-Calvinist position with one’s ‘falling away from the faith’. Hebrews warns that we can deny the Lord who bought us and risk being completely undone. Peter says the act of burning your faith bridge behind you is like ‘a dog returning to its vomit’. But God, who is all knowing, knows who’ll do that and who won’t, we postulate – just as Jesus knew Judas was going to be a follower then a traitor, ultimately ending up a splattered mess below his hanging tree. He (the Spirit) chose some to recognize God as God and Jesus as the only Saviour, but some from that same bunch will opt on their free will and abandon their beliefs. Somehow, His choosing works out to His end and that’s fine with us. Sad that some will opt away from the faith, surely, but it would seem that they were destined to choose their destinies in contrariness to the faith they were given. One can only hope that – should they have the chance – they will have an NDE and get that second shot to become His – reclaim their position in the cross of life. Some will say, “They were never saved to begin with.” But that is too trite – like we humans can ascertain the mind of God and possess the knowledge to make such a statement. We’ll never know ’til we know …
    ~F.R.

    Comment by Flagrant Regard — July 20, 2015 @ 11:27 pm


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