Too Much Competition?

     I have been noticing something over the past several years that causes concern. Now, before I share my concern, I must admit that I am biased in my assessment. My bias comes from the fact that I have been in full time Christian ministry for a very long time, over 40 years to be more specific. Being a pastor just naturally lends itself to the bias to which I am confessing. You’ll understand as I share my concern.
     Over the years I have watched church-goers in America become less and less committed to regular church attendance. To me, it seems like just about anything and everything is able to beat out coming to church on Sunday. It may be too windy, too cloudy, too rainy, too snowy, too hot, too cold, too pretty,… see what I mean? Frankly, if I wasn’t “paid” to be here, I would probably have to deal with the same temptations to stay home or go to the park or whatever may be competing for my time. I do get it…. it just seems like the competition is winning almost every Sunday. Are we as American Christians too busy? Too involved in outside activities? Or are we just not that interested in church attendance anymore? I was recently confronted with a familiar verse in scripture that really struck a nerve. It’s found in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (NKJV)
When you begin to break these verses down, there are some amazing truths revealed. First, if we don’t come to church to have fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we really can’t consider them in order to stir up love and good works. We also can’t really exhort (encourage) one another. The writer even tells us that instead of our attendance tapering off in the latter days, we need to be EVEN MORE DILIGENT to meet together for these opportunities to build one another up. Perhaps the writer was given some insight by the Holy Spirit of how difficult things would get in the last days. The problem with these difficulties is they don’t stem from persecution for us here in America, they stem from apathy, disinterest and busyness competing for our time. As a matter of fact, persecution actually causes the church in other parts of the world to be much more fervent in their church involvement, even if it means meeting secretly!
     So, is it competition keeping people from church on a weekly basis, or is it more like apathy? I suspect it is some of both. Can I just challenge you to consider your church involvement and attendance? Are you faithful to your church on a weekly basis as much as is humanly possible? And before you think I’m getting legalistic, I understand that there are legitimate reasons why a family has to miss church, but I submit that many are way too quick to find an excuse not to come. Let me give you a glimpse into my childhood for a moment. In my home, we didn’t wake up on Sunday morning debating as a family whether we would go to church. As long as I can remember, when I went to bed on Saturday night, I had absolutely no doubt that come Sunday morning, I was to get dressed and ready to go to church. I never asked my mom if I had to go…. because I knew I had no choice! Was I damaged from that rigid requirement? Quite the contrary! It has helped me appreciate the commitment my mother had for her family to be in church. I am actually better for it!  Would that kind of commitment from families today be too much to ask? Well, the writer of Hebrews would most likely say, “No way!”
     How about your family? Would you consider making a similar commitment that my family made many years ago? Let me speak specifically to FBC, ST. Clair people. Is God speaking to you about your attendance habits? Folks, I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but the day may very well come in America where we won’t be able to meet together openly in a church building. We better enjoy it while we still can!
Pastor Jim

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