The average frequency of attendance at church services is decreasing. Church attendance is not the goal. But a lack of attendance reveals some large issues that need to faced by Canadian church leaders.
According to Carey Nieuwhof at his blog there are at least ten reasons.
1. Greater affluence;
2. Higher focus on kids’ activities;
3. More travel;
4. Blended and single parent families;
5. Online options;
6. The cultural disappearance of guilt;
7. Self-directed spirituality;
8. Failure to see a direct benefit;
9. Valuing attendance over engagement;
10. A massive cultural shift.
I’m sure I’ll have some conversations with church leaders and Christ-followers over the next months about these disturbing realities and a lack of ‘seeking FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness,’ but for now I want to direct your attention to John 20:24-31 where Thomas had missed just ONE meeting of the disciples and by so doing had missed meeting Jesus. For whatever reason, Thomas had not been with the other 10 leaders when Jesus met them on that first Easter Sunday evening.
The ten spoke their collective joy to Thomas by telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” (John 20:25)
Their joy did not persuade this reluctant leader. He had his own issues to sort out and asserted his unwillingness to believe without a first hand tactile encounter of the physical body of Jesus Christ.
What if that had been the only post-resurrection appearance of Christ? What price would Thomas have paid for his absence from the gathering of the disciples? What price do Christ-followers pay in ‘forsaking the assembling our ourselves together?’
Jesus did not leave him in his defiant doubt, but a week later appeared again. Almost immediately, he challenged Thomas to explore the evidence, to deal with the doubt, to assuage his anxiety and “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
This fresh encounter led to a fresh confession of faith. “My Lord and my God!” he affirmed. From doubt to devotion, from perplexity to praise, from stubbornness to submission, that’s what encounters with Christ accomplish. My prayer is that God would stir each of us up with a white-hot fire of devotion to Himself. After all, we are commanded to love the LORD our God with ALL our heart, and ALL o ur soul and ALL our strength, and ALL our might, aren’t we?