“When WAS the last time?”

And I heard another one murmur

“When was the last time you made it to worship more than 2 Sundays in a row?”

For the regular worship attender this question is a ‘no-brainer,’ but for millions of others they have extreme difficulty answering it.  On any given Sunday less than 20% of America’s population is in a house of worship.  So, on any of those same given Sundays more than 80% of America is someplace else and despite most folks posturing about ‘praying every day’ and ‘believing in God and all that’ in response to pollsters inquiries… the number of newspapers on the edges of driveways at 10 AM is far greater than the number of cars in church parking lots… and when WAS the last time you got stuck in a traffic jam on the way to worship?

As someone noted… ‘It just doesn’t make sense to me that people would join a church and then not attend.’  It’s a frustration that pastors and church leaders have.  But, it’s not their fault…

I’ve always liked the story of the new pastor who, as he was trying to welcome each and everyone into the church, approached the husband of one the parishioners on Christmas Eve…”Bob, when are you going become part of the  Army of God?” he asked.  It was an honest question, because Bob was not an official member of the congregation.

Well, pastor, I am in the Army of the Lord!” came the reply.

The pastor quickly chided back, “But you are only here a few times a year…Christmas and Easter and sometimes Mother’s Day!   You should come to every service.”

“Well, pastor,” Bob chirped, “I really am in the Army of the Lord… I’m in the ‘secret service!”

And so it goes… the murmuring continues… so consider some data*…

  • Christianity, with a market share of about 34% worldwide, remains the most popular religion, globally.  <NOTE: ‘globally’>
  • 53% of Americans consider religions to be very important in their lives. This compares with 16% in Britain, 14% in France and 13% in Germany;
  • The percentage of American adults who identify themselves as Protestants dropped below 50% about the year 2005;
  • There appears to be a major increase in interest in spirituality among North Americans. However, this has not translated into greater church involvement;
  • Mainline denominations have been losing membership for decades in the U.S;
  • At the present rate of change, most Americans would identify themselves as non-religious or non-Christian by the year 2035;
  • Agnostics, Atheists, secularists and NOTAs (none of the above) are growing rapidly;

                                                            * = Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance

This may seem odd to many living in the U.S. southern states where Alabama ranks # 1 in worship attendance by population or for us in Texas where we rank # 12.  But in Vermont, which comes in at # 48…the question asked there is…”Why so many attend in other places…how could that be?”

And while all this is good fodder for a good conversation with your unchurched neighbor, it means very little when it comes down to a personal perspective and we lump the conversation and questions into the framework of asking, ‘where do you go to church?”  I remain the president and CEO of the corporation whose mantra is… “we don’t go to church… we are the Church!”  At least that’s how I see it from a biblical and ecclesiastical and historical  perspective…

But, I must admit… I love the reasons offered why people stay away… they are oh so creative…

  1. I don’t have enough time!  <as if any one of us has any more time!>;
  2. Sunday is my only day to sleep in! <as if sleeping in were truly ‘healthy’>;
  3. I don’t understand < which is a great & honest response to non-participation!>
  4. The church is full of ‘hypocrites;’  < hypocrite = actor –see TV preachers>;
  5. All they want is my money! <Biblically it’s not ours any way…>

And with a closer look at the responses one will see quickly that each of the answers is focussed on ‘the self’… which when one cuts to the chase is the exact reason why being part of the church… the body of Christ… the communion of saints (and sinners)… the people of God… the set apart and called out people who call out to others with the story of God…. has value for each person, their family, the community and ultimately the world…Simon and Garfunkel were wrong… we are not rocks…we are not islands…

And the best way to get at this is ask a simple question…

“Which of these ‘hours of the day’ is the most important hour to you, personally?”

              a. 10:30 AM Monday       b.  10:30 AM Sunday      c.  10:30 PM Saturday

And how you answer that question will give you a clue as to ‘what’ and ‘who’ is at the core of your life…where you place your trust and what it is and who it is that ignites the fire of your very own being…  and just for the record…those who claim to be Christian the answer is obvious and those who claim to be Christian and answer a. or c.  their truer identity is obvious as well.

And so if ‘church’ is something I am rather than something I go to… then worship becomes the most important thing to me…not a piece of the pie of my life…but rather the pie pan that helps hold my life together…the point of origin that gives meaning and purpose to my day-to-day actions and attitudes… and therefore something of worth… an event… a pause… a starting place that I find myself coming back to time after time…the means by which I nurture the faith that I practice so that when I need my faith…it is strong and easily accessed!

I continue to both laugh and cry about people who change churches and then stop going to the ones they’ve changed to… as it seems, in the end, then it really is more about them and less about God…

My grandmother Irene only changed churches one time.  She left her Methodist roots and joined the Lutherans after her son married my Lutheran mother…and for her it was an adjustment of convenience…for she did not drive and lived at the house where my parents raised their children.  But, she said this incredible thing to me one day… a long time ago…

I believe that my baptism and faith is enough for me to be saved… (see Mark’s gospel!)… it was like getting a vaccine against myself…I go now to worship each Sunday because, for me, it’s like a ‘booster shot!”  Now how’s that for Grandma logic?  Someone with an 11th grade education and could state in simple terms what reflects our theologcial stance on ‘means of grace’ and visible and spoken Word of God… You go, Gram…

And St. Luke put it this way… “When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom.” <Luke 4:16>

And that’s how it was for 2 of my favorite people of all time… Gram and Jesus… weekly worship… week after week… month after month…year after year…

So, when WAS the last time for you?  Honestly… ?  Is the conversation you are having with yourself each weekend about ‘going to church?” or “being at worship?”  The choice of words just may make all the difference… and remember… you are never a stranger to God no matter how long it seems to have been… So, make Sunday the central day of all that you are and do… and start this Sunday…

Mumuring more or less…



About briangigee

Loves life; lives love! Bud and Doris' eldest son. Descendant of 'refiners' and 'reformers.' Husband to Margo. Father of 5. Grandfather to 4. Brother, uncle, friend and colleague. Working parish pastor. Became a naturalized Texan in February 2013.
This entry was posted in Because Someone Needs to Say Something!. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “When WAS the last time?”

  1. Bill Putman says:

    Amen & Amen!

    On it goes….

    God bless you & your ministry!

  2. Robert Broussard says:

    Most important time and day is 10:30AM on Sunday and when I’m doing something for the Lord or my family. 2nd most important is when God gives me another breath, and third most important is when I can spend time with my family doing anything.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s