Because Charleston has a such a strong heritage of faith and faithfulness, we are normally behind the averages when alarming statistics about faith and church pop up—but not this one. In his article below, Art Heinz points out a very troubling statistic that is red-hot nationally and locally: a trend where more and more folks are going to church monthly if they feel like it, instead of the faith-filled Sunday by Sunday.
Now I know that we are on tricky ground here. It’s easy to fall into legalism on the one hand, and cheap grace on the other. But if we believe we were created to worship the ever-living God, skipping it for other things can do great damage to our spiritual lives. Read on…
By Art Heinz
The overwhelming consumerist mentality in our nation has spilled over and saturated the thinking of Christians throughout the Church in the United States. More and more believers in America approach the concept of finding and remaining in a church the same way they would handle buying a car, shopping for the latest technological advancement, or choosing a movie to watch. An institution whose founder came not to be served, but to serve, has been tainted by a ceaseless drum beat of “what can you do for me?” The worship environment, the style of music, the dress code, the church programming, and the overall focus of the church, is no longer about the Lord and His agenda, but about the personal preferences of individual church shoppers.
The crisis of commitment and ownership in the American Church is reflected in the 2015 Pew Research Study that showed a serious decline in Americans self-identifying as Christians. The problem is demonstrated any given month as families who used to attend church weekly and even several times a week now attend services one to two times a month (and I’m not referring to the shut-in, the sick, or those who must work). It is impossible to build anything of consequence in any sector of society with such inconsistency.
Imagine if a construction crew showed up to a building site only once or twice a month. Think of what would happen if physicians and nurses manned the hospitals and ERs only a couple of times a month. Consider the problems in education if our teachers worked only two days a month.
And yet, the welfare and future of our great nation hangs in the balance as rabid hedonists, religious fanatics, and ignorant young socialists and progressives march on fully committed to their causes. We cannot build godly, committed, and society-changing future generations with a selfish hit and miss approach to church.
The key to the restoration of our culture and society is not the economy, our healthcare system, or even education, but the tone and temperature of our nation spiritually. How can cold, lifeless, church skipping Christians possibly be the catalyst for fanning the flames of spiritual renewal and fire in the United States? This coldness and lifelessness is reflected in the attitude of the Christian who says I don’t need to attend church all that much because I can get my spiritual food online or through broadcast media. The attitude is reflected in the individual who says I don’t need to go to church because I can commune with God in nature on my own. It’s reflected in the family that emphasizes every other kind of activity and pursuit other than spiritual education in the name of putting the family first. It’s reflected by the one who points to their hurts, their disappointments, or their needs as an excuse to be absent from church. It’s reflected in church workers who only show up to church when they are scheduled to serve, teach, or lead. It’s reflected by parents who teach their children, by ungraciously and habitually leaving church after church, that the Church and its people are fatally flawed.
It’s reflected in the people who pursue amusement, recreation, and entertainment to the detriment of their spirituality and places of worship.
So, what’s the issue here? The primary issue is a fundamental misunderstanding of why we gather as Christians. True, we gather to worship God, learn the principles of God’s Word, and fellowship with one another. But if you read the words of the writer of Hebrews, our priority is gathering so that we can encourage and help one another to progress spiritually in an increasingly secular, pessimistic, and antagonistic culture: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Luke tells us Jesus, the one we say we are following, left an example of faithful attendance explaining, “on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom” (Luke 4:16). Think about that. Jesus, the Son of God, had a habit of going to the house of God. How much more do His followers need to develop that habit?
The culprits in the current spiritual malaise and indifference in our country are the selfish Christians who fail to consider how they can help, assist, and encourage someone else by coming faithfully to church instead of focusing on and serving their own wants, preferences, needs, and schedules. That single mindset of coming to church not for what you can receive, but for what you can provide is the key to a true spiritual renewal in our land. When you are not in church the gifts and abilities in you are not made available to others. That’s why skipping church is selfish and the complete opposite of the example of Jesus, the mission of Jesus, and the commands of Jesus. If you are a consistent, constant, and faithful church goer, don’t let anything stop you from continuing in your dedication. If you have become distant, cold, lifeless, and selfish in absenting yourself and your family from the Church, repent and return to a faithful lifestyle and relationship with your local church. As the writer of Hebrews challenged us, we should become more diligent and dedicated to one another as we see the end coming, not more selfish.