The Bonds of Faith
In just over a week, the nation will observe the most hypocritical holiday of the year. That’s when atheists, humanists and agnostics will start their three-day spring weekend by enjoying Good Friday, even though it draws its name from the Person they claim doesn’t exist.
Easter weekend will bring out a separate group, often dubbed the CEO (Christmas Easter Only) or CECG (Christmas and Easter Church Goers) attenders.
I hesitate to call them Christians, because those who are serious about their faith pay attention to Hebrews 10:24-25.
That’s the passage that directs Christ’s followers to not forsake regularly meeting with each other for mutual support and encouragement.
The fact that American church attendance has been fading in recent years stems from a variety of factors, especially the fact that it’s no longer socially acceptable or popular.
While many bemoan that development, I think it’s positive that cultural Christianity is disappearing.
My wife used to work for a corporation where if one expected to be at the executive level, church attendance was expected by management.
Such unwritten practices just helped fill churches with a number of people who didn’t really want to be there and probably didn’t learn much while they were.
I grew up in an era where it was normal for parents to take their children go to church. The lack of “heart” for the church surfaced when the kids grew up and their parents stopped going.
Feelings of Sadness
No amount of lecturing, attendance campaigns, or advertising will persuade so-called nominal Christians to return to church.
Yet, I feel sad for the CEOs who appear like magic a day or two a year and then fade back into the woodwork. Not because the church needs their money, but because they are missing out on the richness of Scriptural instruction and the mutual support of spiritual life together.
I saw the truth of that in recent weeks when our church suffered the loss of two family members. Any death is hard on a congregation, but when the average weekly attendance is less than 100, it’s deeply felt.
The first was the 32-year-old brother of a key member. My wife and I had prayed with him a few months earlier when he vowed to turn around his life and make Jesus his Lord.
I had chatted with him at our Christmas dinner when he talked of moving out of state for a job opportunity.
Although that apparently fell through, he was supposed to start a job in our area the week after his mother found him dead, the victim of a bad heart.
The other loss was the mother of a woman we got to know during home Bible studies.
While crossing a busy four-lane street, a car in one lane shielded the mother’s view of one trailing behind. The second driver struck her, apparently killing her instantly (though she was not pronounced dead until she reached the hospital).
Since these tragedies occurred about a week apart, they left many members shocked and hurting for those who lost loved ones.
In both cases, the families expressed deep appreciation for the people who came to the funeral home and provided food for the bereavement dinner or meals later, when all the relatives had gone home.
Having lived through such pain, I know how much these kinds of expressions mean—and how meaningful they are when they come from those who share the common bond of faith.
Such cords can’t be formed on once- or twice-a-year visits. And the real losers are those who rarely avail themselves of identifying with a church family.