This week in our what we believe series we’re taking a look at All you have to do is walk into a church just about anywhere across America and you’ll see it. What used to be row upon row of chairs or pews filled with families worshipping together has become more of a barren wilderness of empty seats. The trends are startling! Fewer and fewer people are seeing the importance and necessity of attending a weekly worship service. An individual’s average attendance has shifted from weekly to maybe once every five to six weeks. But why? What’s the reason for this trend?
In a recent study of a cross-section of Americans the answer was clear. The new trend is the belief that it’s acceptable and even preferred, in some cases, to worship at home – whether that’s alone or with one’s family. Now before we journey too deep into this, let’s set the record straight. Family worship is important. I’m actually a huge advocate of family worship in the home. But the problem arises when this at-home version of worship begins to replace the worship done with the rest of the body of Christ.
The bible is pretty clear on this one. The writer to the Hebrews (10:25) says let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing. You see the problem with this new trend is that it’s keeping the church from one of the things that defines the church – community. We live in an individualized culture. Every man, or woman, for themselves seems to be the motto of life. But the church isn’t an individualized sport. It’s not a one man band kind of thing.
It seems there’s something missing in our interpretation of the church these days. We love to talk about the individual faith of the believers in our congregations but what about the benefits of a corporate gathering? As I write this post there are individuals from the congregation I serve who are in the hospital and nursing home situations, others have loved ones who are struggling, another just lost her grandpa. And what hope is there in the church of one? When you have to navigate these trials and struggles alone they seem insurmountable! But when you have a group of people on whom you can lean the challenges are more manageable.
You see church isn’t a place or an event, it’s a people. We’ve lost the realization that the church is about relationships. Jesus summarized all of the commandments into two statements love God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. These commands are 100% about relationships.
Is the church necessary? Yes it absolutely is necessary! The church as the building is necessary as a hub for gathering together. The church as the time of week when we gather is necessary because this is where we step away from the frustrations and worries of life and find our comfort in the presence of Jesus and others who believe the same way we believe. The church as the people is necessary because these are the ones who help us carry our burdens, walk alongside us to ensure we’re never alone and encourage us in the way we should go.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
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