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The pastor took his customary place at the back of the church to greet the Easter crowd. As usual, the crowd had swelled to fill the sanctuary.
The pastor saw a friend whom he knew came to church only Christmas and Easter, and said, “Hi John, I’d like to take this opportunity to say ‘Merry Christmas,’ since I probably won’t see you here again before that.”
John muttered on the way home, “Won’t see me until Christmas! I’ll show him!”
The next Sunday he got up with the family and attended church, and continued to do so the rest of the year. The pastor was glad to be wrong on his prediction of John’s worship attendance.
This story is all too familiar for pastors who see big crowds on Christmas and Easter and greatly-reduced participation at other times in the year. As I have talked to many people about their regular or irregular worship attendance, I’ve found that the desire to attend church regularly is sincere, but the cares of the world have a way of derailing the best plans to make Sunday morning church time.
The fourth Commandment states, “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). The Hebrew people realized, long before modern science proved, that the human body can only go without rest for so long before it begins to fall apart. This was part of God’s revelation to them, but even more important, to live life fully, we must take time to worship and praise our creator. Otherwise, it is easy to get our priorities ahead of God’s will for our lives.
I have no easy answers to help people make and keep their commitment to attend church regularly. There is always something that needs to be done, and Sunday often seems to be the only day to do it.
One thing we can do is simply decide that Sunday is go-to-church day. Decide you will no longer wonder if you are going to church. Decide there is nothing you can do better with your Sunday and the beginning of your week than to take time to praise and worship your God who loves you more than you can even begin to fathom. Decide that you want to be obedient to God and worship Him.
God has made us spiritual beings. We have a yearning to feed our souls with spiritual food that comes only from God. God wants to spend regular time with us through worship, prayer, and the reading of His word, the Bible.
If we don’t do this we will slowly starve to death spiritually. Most people who are malnourished spiritually don’t even realize it. We miss a Sunday and don’t notice a major change in our lives. We miss another and think it didn’t affect me. But, over time, it will catch up with us, and the importance of God and faith in our lives will fade.
If you have children you need a church family more than ever. The old saying is true, “A family that prays together stays together.” It is with great joy that I reflect on how much my children’s relationships with our church family has strengthened their lives, and helped my wife and I raise them to become fine, faith-centered adults.
It is with great concern that I work with young people today who struggle with issues of morality, and little if any knowledge of God, Jesus, the Bible, or faith.
Now you may be thinking, “What does he know about fighting to get the kids to church?” I know it is not any easier to get a pastor’s kids to church than it is to get any other kid to church. We had a rule, going to Sunday School and church are even more important as going to school.
If you are too sick to go to church you get to spend the day in bed, like if you missed school. Each of our children missed church once because they “didn’t feel good.” When they spent the day in bed they decided they didn’t want to miss church again.
What are your “good reasons” for missing church? What keeps you from making a commitment to worshipping God each week? Do your children know anything about the Bible? Ask them a few simple questions to find out.
Do you know a few simple questions to ask about the Bible? Is it about time you fed your spiritual hunger? Finally, if you don’t have a church home, there are many great churches in this community.
Begin searching for the church that is right for you this weekend.
Al Earley is the pastor at La Grange Presbyterian Church. The views expressed in this column are those of the writer.