Justin Taylor, along with Gene Veith, cite an article by Robbie Low in Touchstone about the statistical relationship between attendance of church by a father/man-of-the-house and whether or not their children will be regular worshipers as adults. The gist is that the likelihood that children will attend worship regularly as adults decreases dramatically when the father is not a committed attender. For what it’s worth, the data was collected from Christians in Switzerland in 1994.
I’d encourage you all to read those posts and that article just to get your head around this beast of an issue, but I’d like to extrapolate to a broader point, not based on international research, but based on pastoral observations of the struggles of one local church here in Denver.
I cannot tell you how many families I engage with who are committed followers of Jesus whose worship attendance averages 2 out of the 4 weeks in a month. A year and a half ago, I posted on why skipping church is like shooting yourself spiritually in the foot. Here are the contributing factors, in my opinion:
- Postmodernity, which is anti-institutional, anti-authority
- The success of the emerging church movement in captivating a sizeable minority of evangelicals (and non-evangelical Christians)…for the many helpful things the emerging church has done, they have helped encourage the above postmodern values
- Our hyper-busy culture: when young couples start having kids, or when many adult singles bury themselves in a work-hard-plus-party-hard lifestyle, they get sucked into the vortex of hyper-busyness; there is always something to do, always something to get distracted by
Furthermore, I wonder how many worship leaders experience what I experience. My most committed worship musicians and leaders tend to follow the same trend of 50% worship attendance. This truly breaks my heart…for them and their children.
Some folks have told me that they end up “doing church” at home with their nuclear family or “worshiping God” as they behold His beauty skiing or camping in the Rocky Mountains (a particular problem out here). Unfortunately, at home and in the mountains: (1) your God-ordained leadership (your pastors) are not there to lead you in worship; (2) you can’t rightly celebrate the sacraments (because they are a communal act of the whole local assembly); (3) you can’t receive the edification of the Holy Spirit that only comes in the sacred, communal act of the gathered local church (Eph. 5:18-19). The longer I pastor, the more I am convinced that there is no replacement for the regular, weekly worship-gathering of God’s people.
What’s the remedy? Though some in my church would encourage me to do this, I don’t believe it is helpful to “preach against” this sin (yes, forsaking the assembly of the people is a sin, folks [Heb 10:25]), because that just creates worship-attendance Pharisees, big on legalism and small on the Gospel. My only options, I feel, are to:
- Continually preach the gospel as the perpetual starting place of all growth and maturity
- Continue to pour my heart into designing and praying for worship services which captivate the heart
- Find creative ways to winsomely communicate the benefits of worship-attendance
Do any of you folks out there find the same things going on in your churches?