Church attendance was already in decline before COVID, but the pandemic accentuated the trend. Tom Rainer predicts that most churches will be down 20 – 30% in post-covid worship gatherings.
The reasons for the decline are numerous. Some have gotten used to doing church in their pajamas. Some have found another church. Others are simply attending less. Others have got out of habit and feel like they are just fine without the church.
I’m perplexed at our lack of commitment to community. Too often, we change churches in search of better preachers or programs. We fail to see our desperate need for one another! No local church can be healthy without an underlining loyalty to one another. The writer of Hebrews wrote, “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
Doing community together is essential so here are four benefits of not bailing on your local church.
1. It increases the likelihood that you get to know others genuinely.
We get to know each other by spending time together. If we are busy church shopping or cavalier in our attendance, there is no way we can truly get to know one another. (Don’t underestimate the significance of being known—ask anyone who recently moved about it and they will affirm its value!) Being in community means we show up. We get involved with people. We know and pray for one other.
2. It sets an example of commitment and faithfulness.
Our culture has little commitment to commitment. We are a throw-away society, not just with our stuff, but our relationships. We throw away our marriage, our jobs, and, yes, our church family. But the Bible teaches and the early church modeled a kind of grittiness that had its foundation in commitment.
3. It helps you to grow spiritually, especially if you have to deal with differences and conflict.
It has always surprised me how someone can become upset with one or two things they don’t like in the church and leave! Ironically, they change everything by going to another church which has other things they won’t like. They may be new things-they-don’t-like, but the truth is that every church has people or things that bug us. My advice is to stay the course. No, you won’t agree with everyone but outside of specific scriptural direction, you may just have to agree to disagree. (It’s worth noting that the style of music, the color of the carpet, and whether or not to have chairs or pews is not specifically addressed in scripture but a mandate to unity is!)
4. It allows you to love and minister at a deeper level.
Every time you transition to another church, you start over. Love and ministry are hard to accomplish on the superficial, just-met-you level. They require empathy and deep understanding that in turn require sharing life together. It’s that deeper level that allows love and ministry to take place.
BEFORE YOU GO…
If you are thinking of changing churches, you may feel you have some good reasons. But here is my challenge: stop and remember the reasons to stay.