Thinking Out Loud

July 13, 2017

6 Areas Where Church Dropouts Miss Out

FellowshipWe 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.

Some will argue, “I haven’t wandered from the faith, I’ve simply had it with the local church.” Believe me, I get that; I get that more than you can imagine, even if you’re a regular reader here. But every Sunday I get up and make the trip. Not because I’m obeying the commandment to, or because I’ll feel the Evangelical equivalent to Catholic guilt if I don’t, but rather because the benefits clearly outweigh the cost.

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.

FellowshipThere is so much to be gained from community. The small group movement has made this even more meaningful. In that context, 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. Giving is an act of worship.

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. You might be able to approximate some of these individually, and if circumstances require that, then you certainly should try. But I believe these things were intended to work best collectively.


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)

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4 Comments »

  1. I agree with the points you made and might add two thoughts. The diminished church attendance reflects the age of apostasy that is intensifying as we near the Lord’s return. But also, church attendance and ‘membership’ bring us under authority, something our culture increasingly resists. God established spiritual authority to teach and hold us accountable. Outside of the Body of Christ there is less (or no) accountability. It is akin to Judges 17:6 and 21:25. Watchman Nee’s teaching in his book, Spiritual Authority, is a very good resource on this subject. May the Lord continue to encourage and inspire you!

    Comment by Lisa Beth — July 13, 2017 @ 10:56 am

  2. I would add a couple of things as well:
    * a healthy church community consists of a diverse group of people, whether that be racial, socio-economic, ideological, etc. Usually, of our self-selected communities are homogenous, but at its best a church provides an opportunity for us to connect with and relate to people who are different than us (even though that can make us introverts uncomfortable).
    * most people fail to grasp the notion that their presence impacts others. If I have a friend who I look forward to seeing regularly, but that friend doesn’t show up, I miss out. We can be cavalier about skipping church, but we fail to consider how that impacts our friends. When we think about church as a place that is just there to entertain/engage/interest us (ie. the classic consumerist mentality) we miss the idea of what *church* really is: the gathering of people with a purpose centered in Jesus.

    Comment by Mike — July 13, 2017 @ 7:13 pm

    • Your first point is good but the reality of your second point, on both sides of the equation, really resonated.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — July 14, 2017 @ 2:29 am

  3. Good points!

    Sure, some are leaving because they are not really followers of Christ, but that is a smaller number. It has nothing to do with the Great Apostasy of the end times. Attendance is down DRAMATICALLY, yet church leadership fails to ask the obvious questions: Have we done anything to cause this? Could our methodology and the assumptions that support these be off?

    Older believers like you and I attend church regularly IN SPITE of the problems. We have a history of attendance and involvement that spur us on in the midst of a mediocre and often times irrelevant services. We struggle and fight for every scrap of spiritual nourishment that is offered. But younger believers have no such history. If they are not nourished, they just leave.

    Of course, some of that is on them for not being spiritually mature enough to see how important church could be. But that does not relieve the church of her responsibility in the matter.

    Comment by Jim — July 14, 2017 @ 11:32 am


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