It’s Sunday morning: what’s your practice of worship? Is it attending your traditional church service, including an organ and old hymnal booklet? Is it your coffee in hand, rocking out to today’s hottest Christian songs, with fog machines and the works? Both of these options are to be celebrated because we are continuing to practice our faith and dive deeper in relationship with Christ and His Word.
More often than not, I have friends that say they “woke up too late” or “didn’t feel like going,” but instead watched the service online (or simply missed it entirely). Through the convenience of technology, the idea of physically attending church can sometimes seem to fall second in priority.
Sunday in the Catholic Church remains a Holy Day of Obligation — meaning that it’s strongly encouraged to attend mass at least once a week. Although this practice can lead to individuals “going through the motions”, there’s something to this practice that could benefit all Christians. So should all Christians have to go to church every Sunday?
The Origin of Observing the Sabbath
Although church is a uniquely Christian experience, the beginning lies in the very creation of the world. We see in Genesis that on the seventh day, God rested. Even at the very beginning, there is an offering of time, specifically to imitate the example of God.
With the Mosaic law passed down to the Jewish people, this is taken a step further. The Sabbath is established as a day of fasting from work. It was an important part of the day for the Jewish people to go to the synagogue, where there would be a Rabbi reading the sacred Scriptures. From there, the Rabbi would instruct the people on the meaning or message of the passage. Even throughout the Gospels, we see multiple examples of Jesus attending and teaching in the local synagogue.
The Inconvenience of Community
In our modern day, we have seen a trend of decreasing church attendance, especially in the last 100 years. A 2016 Gallup poll found that about 71 percent of people within the United States report being a Christian. Yet shockingly, they also find that only 36 percent of Americans attend church regularly. So what is contributing to this decline in physical church attendance?
There has been much change in our culture, but nothing has shaped it like the rise in technology and the demand for instant gratification. A noticeable shift of focus has also been found from the benefits of community to the preference of individualism.
Technology has brought several blessings in its development that cannot be ignored. The Bible is now literally at the fingertip of anyone who wants it, in whatever translation or version they prefer via Bible apps. Churches are able to put their sermons on iTunes and YouTube and are easier to share than ever before. Yet with this convenience comes unforeseen consequences on church attendance.
One of the largest trends, especially among millennial Christians, has been the use of the internet to watch what churchgoers would otherwise go to church to hear. Why would one wake up earlier, get dressed, and sit through an hour and a half service when you can get the same message, condensed in its 30-45 minute sermon? Why would one leave the comfort of their bed when the same message can be found at the click of a button? If you feel inclined to tithe, you can even set up recurring gifts online. So hypothetically, one can be a member of a congregation without literally stepping a foot inside the building.
However, there is one thing people who take part in this practice are missing.
Look at Paul’s letters: Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, Corinthians, etc. These letters are not written to individuals, but to entire communities of Christians. Paul never mentions options that are given for those with different preferences to the faith but gives the way to follow Christ in a simple command for all.
It is within one of these letters that Paul addresses the biggest problem that occurs when one chooses to not attend church. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about how the many members of the church make up one body in Christ. He continues in verses 26-27, saying, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (NIV)
Here lies the problem when one decides not to attend church. They may not feel like they are losing anything themselves. Instead, they are depriving their church, the incarnation of the Body of Christ, of an essential member. THEMSELVES.
We have all been given different gifts and blessings, and we are called to use those for the good of the whole body. Just as someone can’t walk if they are missing a foot and a leg, those who choose not to join a local church are crippling the growth of the entire church as a whole.
Carrying Our Cross to Church
Joining a church is sacrifice. There is a sense of suffering that comes from cleaning up and coming presentable to church every Sunday. It may have been a late Saturday night, we may feel under the weather, or it is a nightmare to get the kids ready for the morning service. Sometimes, the church faces internal or external conflicts, and sometimes we may not like the sermon series.
However, in a certain sense, church isn’t just for us. We see an example of this sacrifice in the first-century church mentioned in the book of Acts.
Acts 4:34-35 mentions, “… that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” (NIV)
Many of these individuals worked hard to get their current standard of living and could have held onto what they earned. However, they brought everything to the table to the benefit of the entire Body of Christ (the church).
Time is a valuable commodity. More than anything else, today’s society has become defined by how we spend our time. To an outsider, it may seem foolish to sacrifice two hours a week for God. In fact, an 80-year-old who has gone to church his entire life will spend over 8,200 hours in church!
It is a lot at times, but it is an opportunity for us to sacrifice ourselves, to carry our cross, and to freely give that time as an offering to God. Why wouldn’t we want to come together every Sunday for Jesus? Why wouldn’t we want to grow our church together?