It was an amazing Easter church service last week. Tons of people showed up. It reminded me of the Christmas service. It reminded me how each year a significant portion of the body of Christ shows up for Christmas and Easter services to enjoy Christian fellowship, and praise and worship the Creator and Savior of the world…Jesus Christ. It also reminded me that the rest of the year these “Christians” will be gone without a trace.
A couple questions are racing through my head.
- Why do they show up at all?
- Why don’t they show up each week the rest of the year
- What other parts of their Christian life have a momentary blip of activity, followed by an overwhelming almost deafening stream of silence
- Can you call yourself a Christian if you don’t participate in the ongoing and communal worship of God?
To be clear, I want these Christians to show up each week. I don’t think they are “bad” people. I think they have much to gain, and much to offer a Christian community (1 Peter 4:10, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”).
I think God wants them there too. I am simply perplexed as to why our pews surge during these two days and why these Christians go back to business as usual the rest of the year. I think it’s worth discussing, and I hope you do too. By the way, I use “them” and “they” because I assume I am preaching to the choir here. However, if you are one of these Christians, please let us know your thoughts too by sharing a comment.
So, let’s address each of these questions and speculate a bit.
Why do they show up at all?
The reason I ask this is simple. If people don’t feel compelled to join in publish worship during the year, why do they feel compelled to come at Christmas and Easter?
He’s worth it, and it’s biblical. Read Hebrews 10:25, Romans 12:5, and Luke 4:16. Hint: Even Jesus Went to church as a regular practice.
Maybe it’s out of family guilt? You are visiting your folks or visa-versa, the kids are home from college, and so you feel you must go through the motions with your family? If that’s true, I completely understand. Family pressure and guilt can be intense. I get it. But I look around and I don’t see a bunch of elderly folks with their younger adult children. Yes, I see more families. But the majority of the new folks I see during these Christmas and Easter services are just couples by themselves. So, are these mixed-faith couples? And they succumb to pressure to go on these special occasions?
Maybe guilt isn’t it. Maybe people just instinctively know that honoring God with their presence at Christmas (birth of Christ) and Easter (death and resurrection of Christ) is a good thing to do. But, if you think going to church two days a year is in any way honoring him, I would have to disagree. What you don’t do the majority of the time says a lot more to me than what you do two days a year.
Honestly, I just don’t get it. I’m hoping someone else will have a better reason. OK, on to the next question.
Why don’t they show up each week the rest of the year?
Maybe people don’t feel connected or truly part of their church. Well, going to church each week would certainly help you feel more connected. Finding an area within the church for you to use your gifts in service to others is the best way to get connected within a church and make it feel like home. And showing up each week to worship and serve among fellow Christians is a great way to feel connected to both God and other church members.
Maybe they are too busy? They can carve out two days a year (actually 2 to 3 hours per year), but no more. Life is just too busy. Really?
Maybe they don’t like the preaching? I go back to the first question: why show up at all? Maybe they feel the messages the rest of the year are too convicting of their thoughts and behaviors and attending those services makes them uncomfortable. Maybe Christmas and Easter services are just enjoyable enough to bear.
Maybe they don’t like _____(fill in the blank)? There are literally hundreds of thousands of churches that might be a better fit for you and your worship style. Find one you like, and then go…weekly. If you have to drive out of your way to the next town…then do it.
Maybe you simply prefer to watch church on television in the comfort of your home. Joel Osteen has a pretty big TV audience. But doesn’t he also have a televised Christmas and Easter service? Why go to a local church service for Christmas and Easter if watching a televangelist each week on TV is your weekly habit? Again, this doesn’t seem to make sense either.
Nope…none of these really make sense. It makes me wonder if these “C & E” Christians are really disciples of Jesus Christ. Maybe their faith just isn’t that important to them.
Anyway, all of this is just speculation. Onto the next question…
What other parts of their Christian life do they treat this way?
In other words, do these people pray two days a year? Do they have a quite time with God two days a year? Do they get together and serve their community two days a year? Do they read their Bibles just two days a year?
What ARE they doing the rest of the year? If I had to make a wager, I would say their thoughts are far from God and His will. I would say that their hearts have grown cold toward God. Or maybe they’ve never allowed God to warm their hearts in the first place.
Can you call yourself a Christian if you don’t go to church each week?
If I’m not already in hot water, this is the question that will likely heat things up a bit.
Our Christian faith is not a faith of works. It is a faith of Grace. We don’t justify ourselves by mindlessly following ritualistic actions or traditions. And so, one might say that going to church doesn’t make or break a Christian either way. Maybe so.
I would agree that going to church is only one small part of the Christian life. And there are more important “essentials” to consider. But in my opinion, not going to church regularly does raise some questions about the authenticity of a person’s faith.
I don’t presume to have special powers to know without a doubt who the real Christians are. But I can fall back on scripture.
Matthew 7:16: “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act.” (NLT). Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (NIV)
So, on the positive side, if you abstain from church, yet still produce the fruit of the spirit, maybe you still are a Christian. Given the choice, I’d rather see a Christian producing fruit (and not going to church), than to see a regular church goer who produces no fruit. I’d rather see a regular church goer AND someone who produces the fruit of a spiritual life.
Maybe you can love God with all of your heart, all of your mind, all of your soul, and all of your strength…and still not attend church each week.
Maybe you can have a real love relationship with the Creator of the universe, where you glorify Him in so many other ways that going to church just isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things.
Or, maybe you are too busy loving others, serving others, and worshiping God in other ways…and church just isn’t for you. Maybe you are wondering: why don’t people stop going to church altogether and get out in the real world and love and serve others like you do every day or every week?
Alas, only God knows who the real Christians are. Only God can peer into a person’s heart and soul and discern who is or isn’t written in His book of life. Ultimately, it boils down to where your heart is. Is your life connected to Him like an umbilical cord in a mother’s womb? Do you feel more or less connected to Him by going to church? If you don’t feel more connected, let’s talk. Maybe we can help you.
This message is not to suggest we should include church on a checklist of what it takes to go to heaven; not at all. What this message DOES suggest is that if you are truly one of His, then shouldn’t you feel compelled by the Spirit to go anyway?
Wouldn’t you be driven to worship him in every way…including weekly church attendance? If you were His, wouldn’t you ignore all of my “maybe’s” and go to church anyway; not out of duty but out of a love for Him?
Wouldn’t you want to make a habit of attending church each week to offer thanks, praise, and worship to your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
Here is an important teaching: going to church isn’t all about you and what you get from it. If you’ve ever said to yourself “I just don’t get much out of going to church”, I would encourage you to change your thinking entirely about church.
Going to church is an act of worship. It’s a time of fellowship with other Christian believers. It’s an opportunity use the gifts God has bestowed upon you to serve other believers.
Church can benefit you for sure, through sound Biblical teaching and timely messages. But, church is really about coming together as the body of Christ in worship. And this coming together for worship should not be confined to Christmas and Easter each year.