JEREMIAH 17:19-23: “This is what the LORD said to me: Stand at People’s Gate, where the kings of Judah go in and out. Then stand at every gate in Jerusalem. Tell everyone: “Listen to the word of the LORD, you kings of Judah, all the people of Judah, and all those who live in Jerusalem, and go through these gates. This is what the LORD says: Watch out! If you value your lives, do not carry anything on the day of worship or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring anything out of your homes on the day of worship. Do not do any work, but observe the day of worship as a holy day, as I told your ancestors. Your ancestors did not obey me or pay attention to me. They were impossible to deal with and would not listen or accept discipline.” (GW)
OBSERVATION: What does church attendance say about my faith? What does church attendance say about the health of our nation? What does the observance of the Sabbath say about the spiritual health of Israel during the days of Jeremiah? Why is this question so important and so significant?
Some may immediately object and say – “Church attendance does not make one a Christian!” However, my opening question was not whether church attendance made one a Christian. It was – “What does church attendance say about my faith?” So, let us limit this discussion to Christians. And let us define Christians as those who have made a confession of faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, and who profess their belief that the Bible is the Word of God. What does church attendance say about their faith? What does church attendance say about these Christians and the health of their nation.
Focusing now on America, what correlation does church attendance of Christians have with the faith and health of our nation? What percentage of our population claims to be Christian? What percentage of our population claims to attend church each Sunday? According to a recent Gallup Poll in 2015, 75% of our population claims to be Christian, down from 80.1% in 2008. And how many of this 75% regularly attend church? Another Gallup Poll puts the estimate at around 37% of this 75%. However, when factoring in what is called the “halo effect”, the number plummets down to around 22%. The “halo effect” is the phenomenon of people answering a moral question the way they think it should be answered, even though their actual experience does not match their answer.
Now, let’s drill it down even more. Let’s look at our own County – Parker County, TX. In 2013 the population in Parker County was 121,418. Using rounded numbers from the polls cited, this would mean that roughly 91,000 people in Parker County would claim to be Christian. From this, the average church attendance on a given Sunday morning would be 19,000 people. This may seem to be a large number, but this also means that there is a astounding 102,000 people that either do not attend church, do not have a church home, or who do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord! This is an astounding and alarming figure in a county that is filled with Christian churches of every denomination and worship style! Something is wrong!
The Lord knew that the Israelites refusal to honor the Sabbath was not the problem in itself. Jesus was clear – “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” What Sabbath observance, church attendance, tells us, is the true condition of our heart. When Jesus is truly the center of our hearts and lives we proclaim – “I was glad when they said let us go to the house of the Lord!” When we have drifted away from the Lord, one of the first indicators is our diminished focus on the need to honor the Lord’s Day, and the call to corporate worship. There was a day when businesses shut down in honor of the Lord’s Day. That day is far gone. And now everything and everyone is competing to take the place of the call to go to the house of the Lord!
Church attendance is like the red engine light on our dashboard that comes on when there is a greater problem under the hood. We have dismissed its importance, but the Lord never has. He knows that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. When bringing our family to corporate worship becomes a low priority in our lives, is it any wonder when everything else begins to slip. Is it any wonder why our nation is sliding away into darkness and disobedience?
It is not that church attendance will save us. However, it is that church attendance reveals what has already taken place in our hearts!
Lord, awaken our hearts! Draw us to true repentance! Draw us back to You and let us order our lives according to Your priorities. May we put You first always. May we once again make a commitment to remember the Sabbath, the Day of the Lord, and to keep it holy unto You!
In Jesus Name!