Don’t Get Too Comfortable!
If we knew years ago what the world would look like today, we probably wouldn’t have signed up for what we face now. We’ve endured many issues recently that have pushed us away from one another and increasingly secluded us.
Now, three years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have a better picture of how the virus has changed the world. As expected, we’re less social than before; and though the virus forced us to develop creative solutions for operating remotely, it also took its toll on the bride of Christ: the church.
A study by Lifeway Research reveals a sharp rise in the belief that meeting together with believers is not terribly important. While 58 percent of Americans in March 2020 considered worshiping alone or with one’s household a valid replacement for regularly attending church, more than 66 percent feel that way now. Only 36 percent of respondents said they believe Christians should join a local church.
A 2021 Gallup poll showed that church membership among U.S. adults, which has been declining steeply since 2000, has fallen below 50 percent for the first time since polling began in 1937. So, while decreased church attendance can largely be attributed to the two-decade trend of sinking church membership, the pandemic certainly didn’t help.
Ironically, the very tools churches used to continue effective ministry during the height of COVID-19 have become the excuses people use to disengage from church activities. Though livestreaming services bridged the gap between weeks of lockdowns and the ability to worship together in person again, they accustomed churchgoers to the ease of at-home worship. If you can watch a church service from bed in your pajamas, why bother gathering with other believers?
Now, too many congregants are content to sit on the sidelines instead of jumping back into the action. But they fail to realize, or at least act upon the fact, that God-honoring worship services don’t materialize on their own. They require a dedicated effort from many people within the body of Christ because “the body is not one member but many” (1 Cor. 12:14); and those many members need to cooperate, both to edify other members and to draw unbelievers to know the Lord so they can find eternal life in Him.
If our goal is merely to attend Sunday morning services, then staying home is fine. But that should not be our goal. We need not only to hear God’s Word on Sundays but to engage with it and with others and to put the lessons we learn into practice as we interact with the world around us and the community of believers in our local churches.
Hebrews 10:24–25, a familiar passage, teaches us how we should act:
Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Loving the Lord is not a passive pastime. It should lead to action that honors Him. And it should be our pleasure to fellowship with other believers, exhorting one another and worshiping the Lord together.
The world constantly changes. Society changes, and our responses to its challenges and trends change too. But God never changes, and neither does His Word. Though we live in this world, we are not of it; and our faithfulness to biblical teaching should not fluctuate the way our surroundings do.
We should be committed to worshiping together and living out God’s Word both publicly and privately. When we do, we find greater joy in loving the church as God loves it than in watching church from the comfort of the couch.