Sometimes we can be baldly challenged by a simple comment. The Very Reverend Andrew Norton (past Moderator of PCANZ) came and led our parish review with the leadership the other day. He made a simple comment which made me and others prick up our ears. It is not a comment to condemn or judge, certainly not for those who suffer ill-health, or who have annual leave taking them away or maybe there are pressing or significant matters beyond our avoidance, but his comment is still worth reflecting on for us all.
What Andrew said to us all as we worked through all thirteen tables of results(!), was that the best estimate today of what people consider regular attendance at church worship is one Sunday in three! He pointed out that forty years ago people went to worship every Sunday, then it dropped to three times per month in the last twenty years or so, then two times per month and now it is one in three or one and a third times per month. What that means is, some modern Christians gather together to worship our God, our Saviour and Lord seventeen Sundays per year and if a service is one and a half hours long, that means they spend just twenty six hours per year worshipping God in a church. That’s about equivalent to half a working-weeks’ time per year. I wonder how that compares with all the other things we choose to do in life? It’s a good question to ask. By the way, there are also those who only attend once per month if that – they give God just 18 hours out of their 8,760 hours in a year to celebrate Him, glorify Him and worship Him alongside His other children in fellowship as we’re all called to do!
What is this all about? No wonder the Western Church is so often failing in its calling to serve in the Kingdom of God to the best of its ability and service. What does this mean not only for the individuals but also for those watching us? Think about the children at home who watch what their Christian parents of today do, that then becomes their own norm in perceived adult practice and we wonder why over the last forty years, attendance has dropped and the numbers of born-again Christian in places like NZ has declined.
In this day and age, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be getting any better anecdotally-speaking, we are growing into increasingly selfish human beings who won’t even worship their God; even He comes second. But He is our Lord! He is God-with-us! He is our Saviour and our Friend. Who would not want to worship Jesus? And as the writer to the Hebrews said, because it was a problem for some then too apparently, Heb 10:25 – “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,..”
Instead, against the modern flow in the West, let us stop being led by the world, and let’s stand up for what is right. It is right that we worship God together. It is right that we celebrate His name together. It is right that we behave like His children who are grateful for all He has done and does for us. It is right that we worship our Lord and our God together in joy, celebration and with all of our will. And it is from God’s grace and mercy that we are blessed, empowered, encouraged and filled time and time again with His loving kindness and affection.