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Ten Reasons Why America Has Stopped Going to Church

     This past October I drove by a local church and took notice of the words “Come Back to Church Sunday” on its marquee. Although I was inspired by the church’s noble effort, I was equally saddened as I mused about my own largely “unchurched” neighborhood.

     I have become increasingly disturbed at not just the amount of “unchurched” people who clearly claim to be Christians, but also the “churched” Christians who look for a multitude of reasons to attend church only occasionally or seasonally.

     The Word of God states clearly in Hebrews 10:25, “Let us not giving 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” (NIV1984). What are some of the reason for this “habit of forsaking?” Let’s take a look at ten excuses most people find for their reasons not to attend church.

Excuse #1—The Church is full of hypocrites.

     You are right! Moreover, this may be news to you, but I am one of them . . . and so are you!

     When I breathe my last breath and stand before the Lord, will all of my motivations have proven to be pure? Probably not. Will I have said a million things I wish that I hadn’t? Yes. Will I have missed numerous opportunities to show love and kindness to my neighbor instead of displaying my selfishness? I’m afraid so.

     Yet . . . did I seek the Lord daily through Bible study and prayer and love Him to the best of my finite understanding? Yes! Did I make Jesus my priority in my marriage, my motherhood, the way I schooled my children, and managed our home? Yes! Did I not forsake His Church, His Bride, for whom He chose to be brutally tortured and whom He still uses to this day to proclaim His message of salvation? Yes! Did I teach my children that nothing except sickness or vacation keeps us from attending church each week? Yes!

     In Matthew 13, Jesus told the parable of the wheat and the tares (see 13:24-30, 36-43). Jesus makes it clear in this story that the Kingdom is a “mixed” group—filled with good and bad. However, He clarifies in the story that it’s not our job to do the separating now . . . the Son of Man will take care of it at the end of time!

     Remember, the grocery store is full of hypocrites, too, but my family would starve physically if I didn’t go there each week to purchase our food. Over time, our children will starve spiritually if we neglect to take them to a Bible-believing church to be fed the Word of God. As Hebrews 10:23 states (just a few verses earlier), “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful” (NIV1984).

Excuse #2—I’ve been hurt by the Church.

     This is a big one! I can completely understand and relate to your feelings. In my 34 years of being a Christian, I, too, have had to navigate through the portals of pain associated with fellowshipping with hurting, broken people. Steven Curtis Chapman penned a song entitled “We’re All Broken.” Because of this depraved, jaded world in which we all must exist together, none of us will be spared from hurtful comments that fly from the mouths of “church” members who are still broken, insecure, and unhealed.

     Remember, the “Bait of Satan” (as clarified by bestselling author John Bevere) is not just about being hurt and offended but allowing that hurt and offense to drive you straight into the palm of Satan’s hand through bitterness and unforgiveness.

     C.S. Lewis stated, “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has someone to forgive.”

     Years ago, I spent nine months meditating on 1 Peter 3:8-12 until I gained complete victory forgiving a church leader who hurt me deeply, shamed my reputation, and took away a ministry I enjoyed and was gifted to do. Specifically, verse 9 states, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (NIV1984).

     Yes, I do understand how you feel. Being a Christian means being a lifelong repenter and a lifelong forgiver, looking forward to an eventual eternity in Heaven as a reward! Please do not short-circuit an eternity of rich rewards for a mere 70-80 years on this temporary earth with unforgiveness, bitterness, and built up offenses causing you to “forsake the assembly of believers” each week. You cannot afford to be wrong on this matter. The price is too high, and it’s just not worth it.

     The next time you feel tempted to give up on your church attendance because you’ve been hurt again, picture Jesus bleeding to death on the cross and looking at you through beaten, swollen eyes saying, “I know, My child, how it feels to be hurt. That’s why I died . . . for you . . . and . . . for them. I’ve already forgiven them . . . how about you?”

Excuse #3—But I really don’t get anything out of church—the sermon or the music.

     I love the opening in Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life . . . “It’s not about you.” Modern-day evangelical Christianity has created a pandemic problem by marketing the gospel as an “experience” you must have to feel good about yourself . . . a life free from guilt and where the words “sin” and “hell” are rarely, if ever, heard from our pulpits. We have been so consumed with looking “cool” to win lost people, then we scratch our heads when they leave the church as quickly as they were drawn to it. The problem?? We drew them in with a false gospel, and when they stopped being entertained, they left and went back to watching MTV.

     Mark Galli of Christianity Today in his truth-laden book God Wins writes, “There is a periodic reminder that it’s all about God and what He has done on the Cross [in most churches], but on a day-to-day basis, the Christian faith is mostly about us.”

     Each Sunday as our family drives to church, we pray that the Lord will show us the people to whom He wants us to be His hands, His feet, and His mouthpiece of scriptural encouragement. We are not going to church to see what we can “get out of it” or “be entertained.”

     There is not a person our Creator God has not individually wired with certain gifts and talents to be used for His glory. Whether you are a gifted teacher, musician, organizer, artist, photographer, number cruncher, graphic designer, nurse, doctor, writer, athlete, gardener, florist, etc., that church just around the corner (or in your community or city) is partially crippled because your talents have been poured out everywhere else except the House of God!

     I remember many years ago going through a season where I told the choir director at my church that I couldn’t sing any more for the church, but that I needed to sing in the secular world where I could be “salt and light.” It wasn’t wrong for me to be “salt and light,” but not to the exclusion of His house (and . . . we’ve already discovered that much of the world is already at church any way!). I later repented of robbing our church and have given my musical talents to the Lord’s purposes ever since.

     1 Corinthians 12:18 states, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.” God has gifted you with so much to be used for His glory, and He still chooses to use you and me to fulfill His work.

     Our church is now beautifully landscaped because of a gifted gardener attending our church.

     Our church was led to an all-city Volleyball League championship because one gifted athlete decided to start up a team in our church.

     My in-laws’ church had a gifted nurse and medical personnel at church the same day my father-in-law collapsed. I’m thankful they were there that day to be the hands of Jesus instead of out playing golf or seeing a movie!

Excuse #4—You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian . . . or go to heaven.

     That’s true . . . any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger! (As the late Keith Green used to say!)

     There’s a powerful conversation in scripture that takes place between Jesus and the apostle Peter in John 21. Jesus is asking Peter, “Do you love Me?” Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” He was asked this question three times. Then Jesus brings the point home with, “Then feed My sheep.”

     Who are the sheep? You and I. Where are the sheep? Usually at church.

     If you say that you are a Christian, then I assume that means you love Jesus (as Peter did). If we love Jesus, then we will do what He says we must do—feed His sheep . . . with a whole flock waiting for you at your local church this Sunday!

     Alan Knox has stated, “He cannot have God for His father who does not have the Church for his brothers and sisters.” Will you be with your eternal family this week?

Excuse #5—My child is “gifted” in athletics and plays games on Sundays.

     There is not a Sunday in the fall or spring seasons that I don’t drive by a soccer or baseball field filled with “scholarship-hopeful” parents cheering their 8-year-old to a victorious goal or home run. Equestrian practices and events for children and youth are booming in this country, with most of them taking place on Sundays.

     As a mom, I fully appreciate and encourage parents to enrich their children’s physical and artistic developments. I also remind my own children who love music and ballet that God will honor those who honor Him first. We have not permitted our children to take part in sports or any other enrichment activities that take place on Sundays. (A once or twice a year orchestra concert or performance in the afternoon are exceptions, as well as a few afternoon rehearsals for “seasonal” church events.)

     Chariots of Fire is an award-winning movie depicting the life of Olympic Gold medalist Eric Liddell, who chose not to run the particular race he was heavily favored to win because it was scheduled for a Sunday! What an amazing role model for our youth to embrace. He was willing to stand strong for his convictions at the cost of losing his dream. God honored him and allowed him to win the Gold medal in another race on another day!

     Matthew 16:26 states, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (NIV1984)

     I realize that in our American culture we have NFL football players and NASCAR race car drivers who make bold statements for Christ to the glory of God. I want to believe that they still make a priority for church or chapel before their games and races begin. Everyone must have an answer for the convictions they hold.

     What if enough Christian parents stood their ground on the conviction that their child would not participate in sports that play on Sundays? With enough parents not willing to compromise, then the coaches and league organizers may indeed change their minds and switch to Saturday games. Who’s in charge? The parents or the coaches?

Excuse #6—I work on Sundays.

     I believe that the Catholic church has modeled this well for Protestants. They have determined that church attendance is so critical that multiple service times are offered all weekend.

     If you work on Sundays, I encourage you to find a Bible-believing church that offers a service on Saturday evenings, Sunday evenings, or possibly a service or Bible Study group in the middle of the week.

Excuse #7—I can just watch church on television.

     I have fond memories of being at the hospital over a weekend after delivering one of our babies. It was a quiet Sunday morning in the maternity ward . . . just me, my sweet nursing newborn, and Pastor John Hagee on the Inspirational Channel.

     Television church has been a tremendous blessing for people who are shut in for a season, those in hospitals, sick at home, or those who are not yet Christians but seeking the truth.

     However, choosing television for your Sunday church robs you of the rich shoulder to shoulder fellowship that God intended for your life. Further, it robs others of the weekly fellowship they would love to have with you!

     For an interesting study, just go to www.biblegateway.com and type in “one another” in the search box . . . You will be amazed at the number of commands in the New Testament that are to be done with “one another.” Now . . . consider how you are going to fulfill these commands while watching church on TV. We mature as believers when we “do life” together . . . iron sharpening iron with others each week (Proverbs 27:17).

Excuse #8—We were out late Saturday night.

     In the Jewish tradition, the Sabbath begins Friday evening at sundown with their Shabbat meal, so they are fully prepared and rested for synagogue on Saturday.

      My husband and I pondered this and came to the conviction that as Gentile Christians we, too, need to take Saturday night seriously—starting at sundown with our version of a “Shabbat blessing” meal, followed by a quiet evening devoted to bathing our little ones, laying out all the clothes for Sunday church, and getting to bed! Unless it’s a necessity (i.e. the occasional children’s performance, wedding, or banquet), we generally do not accept social invitations for Saturday evenings. We can fellowship with friends on a Friday night or Sunday after church.

     Exodus 20:8 states, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” (NIV1984) Let’s do our best to honor this, starting the night before!

Excuse #9—My husband is out of town most weekends, and I don’t want to go to church alone.

     I continue to marvel at my friends who are military/first responder wives who regularly bring all of their children (yes, all eight of them!) to church when their mate is not there to help! As the Body of Christ, we fill in the gap with our older girls helping to hold babies or change diapers, if needed. Further, what a beautiful picture to see our precious single moms seeing the Lord as their husband and persevering Sunday after Sunday bringing their children to His house. Great will her reward be!

     1 Corinthians 12:14 states, “For in fact the body is not one member but many” (NKJV). Ironically, when a wife stays home, she is most alone . . . she is truly part of “many” when she chooses to join the Body of Christ that Sunday.

Excuse #10—We can just do church at home.

     “House churches” are a growing concept specifically among homeschooling families who desire to worship the Lord with other like-minded families. Church at home without the expenses of a building, utilities, programs, and even a paid pastor certainly has its enticements . . . especially when you are desiring to shield children from negative influences. Trust me, there have been many times I have felt like staying home to “do church,” too!

     I’m reminded at those times of Jesus’ words when He said in Matthew 22:30, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (NIV1984) In other words, in heaven there will be only one Father, one Husband . . . and one Family!! “Household church” will be the entire population of heaven!

     If you are doing church at home because you just want to be with your own family (I realize that an occasional family sabbatical is necessary), or to be with people who are only just like you, then a long-term practice of this will not sufficiently model for your children that ultimately God sees the “eternal” family as more important . . . even those “different” Christians from whom you are trying to stay away.

     The children we are raising will tend to value what we value. For example, our children love classical and worship music because my husband and I value it and play it constantly in our home.

     What are your values? Is being with God’s family one of your primary values? If it’s been optional in your family, then it may become no longer necessary in future generations.

     If you are one of those parents who did prioritize the Lord’s House each week and yet future generations in your family are unchurched, may you be encouraged and know that you are not responsible for the foolish choices and free will of your grown children.May we all stay humble and on our knees before God and cry out for His mercy over our children while they are still under our care. May we do whatever it takes to re-order our lives and priorities so that when we are old and gray, we will say “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4 NIV1984).

Copyright © 2008-2015 Alyson Shedd

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