There was a time when going to church is what respectable people did. Two generations ago, every self-respecting citizen went to church, regardless of their desire to be there or not. When I was in middle school our family became acquaintances with someone at church. My parents ended up doing business with him only to learn later that he was far from ethical in his business dealings. Church, it turned out, was just a handy place for him to expand his business.
Long gone are the days of expected church attendance. And good riddance to them. I have no desire to have our society return to “the good old days” of church attendance insofar as that is merely moral behavior. What I long for are people to yearn for an encounter with a holy and loving God and to experience the warmth of God’s family.
A recent survey asked people why they do and don’t attend church. Those who attend cited reasons such as “to get closer to God,” “because I find the sermons valuable,” and “to be part of a faith community” as some of their answers. Those who don’t attend listed these as their top reasons for not attending:
1. I practice my faith in other ways
2. I am not a believer
3. I haven’t found a church I like
4. I don’t like the sermons
5. I don’t feel welcome
That’s a helpful glimpse into the heart of the non-church attender. You might notice that four of the five reasons don’t have anything to do with their beliefs. That means that the most significant objection you might fear from your neighbor (disagreeing with your faith) is unlikely to be the main reason they aren’t attending.