I have been working as a minister for 25 years. I say this because in that amount of time you begin to recognize some patterns that are common from church to church.
Each congregation has it's own strengths and weakness, each has it's own personality but all of them seem to share one particular trait without exception, and that is the constant struggle to maintain good attendance for worship, and this congregation is no exception.
For this reasons, I've complied the 10 most common reasons why people don't come to church.
10. I'm Jewish
Obviously the main reason why people don't attend worship is that they are not Christians. 68% of the world population has never heard of Christ. The number of believers is the same as in 1830 but world population has tripled. This is why the great commission is still in force today (Matthew 28:18-20)
9. I'm Sick
Each week a member will be sick, this is normal. This is part of our ministry - To pray for and visit and help the sick. James 5:14
8. I'm Changing
Life is a continual process of change.
- New job
- More babies
With these changes come interruptions in our routines and habits. One habit that suffers during a period of change is usually church attendance. For example, "I'll start searching for a new congregation next week; after the house closes; when things settle down..." Coming to worship and Bible study often gets packed away with other things we promise ourselves to "sort out" once we get settled. But many times this habit, this feature of our old life never gets "unpacked" and remains stored away with the family albums and old tennis racquets.
7. I'm Working
This is particular to North America, people here work long hours and commute long hours. There was a time when industry and government recognized that this was basically a Christian nation and working on Sundays or irregular shifts was less prevalent, now it's the norm. Today, we live in a multi-racial, multi-religious, heavily indebted society where people accommodate schedules, and not the other way around. The Bible says that to provide for our families should be a priority (I Timothy 5:8). It is unfortunate that our fast-paced and extremely materialistic society requires that we sacrifice our spiritual lives in order to meet the demands of our lifestyles.
6. I'm New
One of the most embarrassing moments for the minister is announcing the good news that we have a new brother or sister in Christ – recently baptized and ask them to stand. There is an awkward moment while people crane their necks to get a look at this Christian but they're not at worship. The scene repeats itself at the Weds. service as well.
Young Christians may know about the gospel and the way and reasons why they came to Christ, this is important. But young Christians also need to be trained in Christian living and be taught about the rewards of regular attendance with the at church services.
Coming to services each Sunday, making time for Bible study each Wednesday is an acquired habit developed by the encouragement and example of other Christians. Being faithful in attendance isn't hardwired in at baptism, it comes with patient repetition under all kinds of circumstances.
5. I'm Busy
There's a difference between "I'm working" and "I'm busy." One is based on need and the other is based on want. The busy person isn't a "bad" person, they're just busy! Jesus describes this person in His parable of the sower and the seed:
And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, and the worries of the world and deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
- Mark 4:18-19
Do you recognize the person He's talking about?
- very busy concerned with problems that are strictly rooted in this world.
- very busy getting ahead in this world.
- very busy securing and defending his place place in this world.
This person is not evil, but he does have a priority problem. He / She allows what is urgent, what is here and now to take precedent over what is truly important, perhaps unseen, but nevertheless important.
Busy people have forgotten or don't realize, or don't believe that most basic principle of Christian living. If we put "kingdom matters" (like faithful attendance for example) – if we put things like this first God will find a way to provide for us all the things we are so busy trying to provide for ourselves, and in doing so putting our souls at risk.
4. I'm Hurt
Many people stop coming to worship because they have been hurt in some way. Hurt by another member comments or attitude. Offended by a perceived lack of attention by the elders or ministers. Angered by some things being done in a way that they disagreed with. Offended by a comment or teaching made by the preacher or teacher.
Now most times elders or preachers are unaware that the person is offended and I know that ministers don't sit around trying to figure out ways to offend people or run off members, but it does happen.
Now even though the offense may only be perceived and unintended, people do get their feelings hurt in church and when this happens it's unfortunate for several reasons:
A. Leaving the church because you've been offended will not justify you before God at judgment.
Jesus specifically warned His disciples that among other things, they would be subjected to:
- False teachers
- Suffering of all kinds including physical, emotional and spiritual attack.
but He says that the one who endures until the end will be saved (Mark 13:9-23). Regardless of the offense (real or imagined) leaving the church is not the answer nor is it something God excuses.
B. It won't solve our problem.
Leaving the church because of someone, or leaving because we've suffered a tragedy or a set back of some kind. This is not going to help us recover, this won't make things better. Ignoring God, separating ourselves from our brothers and sisters will not make us healthier spiritually – it will only make us more vulnerable to sin.
- Jesus tells us what to do when someone offends us in Matthew 18:15 – go to the person and work it out.
- James tells us what to do when we're suffering or sad in James 5:13 – Ask the church for help and prayer.
This is why we offer an invitation at the end of our service – in order to take care of these things among ourselves. We shouldn't try to punish God or the Church for the offenses committed against us. Better that we "turn the other check" than we turn away from the one who died to save us and the body that He loves.
3. I'm Lazy
In 22 years I've only met one person who actually admitted that this was the cause of many of his problems and failures – I admired his honesty. Let's face it, going to church on a regular basis requires physical and mental effort. There's preparation and travel - multiplied if you have young children or are bringing an elderly person who needs help, or you live a distance to sit, and stay focused.
Now the definition of a lazy person according to the dictionary is as follows: "One who dislikes physical or mental effort." Solomon, in the book of Proverbs, says it this way:
The sluggard buries his hand in the dish: he is weary of bringing it to his mouth again.
- Proverbs 26:15
In other words, the lazy man won't even feed himself. The Lord provides the nourishment for the only part of a person that will live forever – the human soul. And yet some people are too lazy to make the physical and mental effort to come to the dinner table each week.
2. I'm Worldly
One of the saddest stories in the Bible is the story of Demas, an early disciple in the church. In Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 24, Paul the Apostle counts Demas among his missionary team of helpers and faithful disciples of Christ. In Paul's last letter from Rome before he died he mentions Demas again but this time in different terms:
For Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.
- II Timothy 4:10
Some Christians don't attend regularly because they can't decide who they love more from week to week – Christ, or the world.
- They love the smell of success more than they love the smell of sacrifice
- They love the pleasures, activities and allurements of this world more than the promise or the next.
Jesus spoke of the terrible pull of the world and its power to immobilize us spiritually when He said,
And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.
Where we are involved in sin of some kind, a secret habit, a worldly lifestyle and have no desire or intention to let it go – we lose interest in going to the place and being with people that might expose us and deal with our sins. Worldliness is such an insidious vice because it eats away at our spiritual life quietly and without pain until we are cold and dead in Christ but don't realize it until it's too late! Some of us just keep making one concession to the world after another until we are no longer part of the kingdom – the world owns us completely.
Satan's number one attack in this process is to diminish a Christian's exposure to God's word and His people – and he finds any number of seeming innocent excuses to make that happen. Eventually we find ourselves liking the night better than the light.
1. I'm _____
The #1 reason is your reason – whatever that is, you fill in the blank.
It could be any of the above or one I haven't mentioned yet but it's the # 1 reason if it keeps you from attending all of the services of this congregation on a regular basis.
- Perhaps you think you don't have to be here.
- Maybe you're not convinced that the Lord, not just the preacher want you here.
- It could be that you don't get anything out of church attendance - whatever !
The purpose of this lesson today is twofold:
- If you don't attend all of our services regularly, I want you to at least acknowledge to yourself reason why.
- To examine that reason(s) to see if it is truly a valid excuse for you not to be here for every service.
If it's valid then I pray that God strengthens and keeps you faithful since you are missing a very important part of your spiritual life. If it isn't valid then I hope you'll repent and make some changes in your life, your attitude, and habits so that regular church attendance will become part of your natural lifestyle, and an important priority for you personally.
I realize that I'm mostly preaching to the "choir" this morning and that by your presence here today you are fulfilling your responsibility to the Lord in worship. Now for those who may be here today but who usually don't attend regularly – please don't be "hurt" and use this as an excuse not to return. This message or "medicine" was given to spur you on to greater faithfulness and service which will only benefit you in the end.
If this is your "weak" area, today's lesson is an attempt to help you become strong.