What determines if people in your church make it to the gathering on Sunday? What do you think goes on in their hearts and minds as they get up out of bed on Sunday morning and attempt to make a decision as to whether they will “go” to church or not?
I think a key task in discipleship these days is leading people out of the bad habit of going to church – where such a decision even exists on a Sunday morning for people.
I think over the last forty years of American church, Christians have been habitualized into going to church for bad reasons. We have learned to ask the wrong questions as we consider “going to church.” These bad questions then shape us towards a certain disposition so that when we do go to church we are incapable of entering into the worship of God so as to be formed into His life and Mission. AS A RESULT, WE ARE AS A PEOPLE CUT OFF FROM ENTERING INTO THE LIFE OF GOD AND WHAT HE IS DOING – ironically by the ways we “go to church.”
Over the years, I have noticed some of these bad habits have been trained into people particularly well by mega churches (although believe me we all do it). Some of these bad habits/bad questions might be:
1.) The bad habit of asking “Who’s preaching this morning?” When we get up on Sunday morning (or for that matter whenever the time is for you that you consider whether to make it over to church), if we find ourselves asking this question, it is a signal that it is already too late. We have missed the point of the rhythm of the gathering. We do not go to church to hear a good sermon. We go to practice submitting to the Word and responding to it so that we can do the same throughout the week no matter what the form the coming of the Word might take. Surely we need trained and gifted proclaimers of the Word. They help! Nonetheless, remembering that the greatest impact of the Word was made by a preacher who was a bad communicator (apostle Paul – see for example 1 Cor 2:1-5), we should make the hearing of the Word on Sunday a discipline to train ourselves into for life. We should NOT practice being mesmerized by charms and wit of the motivational speaker.
2.) The bad habit of asking “Do I really need this morning?” When we get up on Sunday and ask this, it reveals that we are trying to live our lives in independence from God. We are in a sense asking whether I need this service to connect with God or, strangely, am I good on my own. Yes? Any time we ask this question, I suggest, we are in essence missing the point. We are not going to the gathering in order make a connection to God in worship. We are going to submit, quiet ourselves, and practice with others living in the presence of God so that our sensibilities are properly trained to continue in His presence the rest of the week. It’s a spiritual discipline that continues into the rest of the week not a point of contact to live off of the rest of the week. The worst thing that can happen to us is to need or become dependent upon some emotionally induced high we get from a produced worship experience that cannot be part of our ongoing way of being the rest of the week.
3.) The bad habit of asking “Is so and so going to be there?” Of course we go to the gathering on Sundays to be with people. It’s corporate for a purpose. Together we become the people of God. I believe a rich kind of community develops out of our corporate worship together as well as many other social practices. Nonetheless, let’s guard against gathering purely and only for who we can connect with. Let the community develop out of our life in God. Let it be part of a wider rhythm Let’s understand that regular rhythm of seeing and being with people in worship feeds into fellowship in every other area including those who are not in Christ. If this is the only time you see Christians all week, this is another signal of a bad habit of going to church.
The bottom line is we are desperate in N America for training ourselves out of some bad habits for going to church. We all too often go to get something whether it be “lights out” preaching, “worship experience” or even connecting with someone I really need to talk to. Not surprisingly, busy suburban self-sufficient evangelicals miss church more than half the Sundays. 50% of all evangelical Christians only go to church twice a month. Sadly church is something we do, instead of part of a rhythm for life with God in His Mission. I contend we need to see the gathering as a sustaining part of a whole life rhythm for mission. Worship at the Sunday gathering should part of a whole life rhythm so that gathering on Sundays is the equivalent of eating, bathing and the other things we do to sustain our lives. It should be such a part of everyday life that indeed asking the question of whether to go or not on Sunday morning would seem rather strange, like the occurrence of an emergency or something.
Do you agree? Do you think I have just made the church gathering more important? What other bad habits of going to church can you think of?