Ten degrees below zero.
Sounds miserable, doesn’t it? That’s been a part of our weather experience as Jim and I do a little “wintering” in Minnesota. Of course being near my daughter and her family is worth every single below zero degree! (And I’m actually getting a little accustomed to it.)
-10 was the outdoor temp in St. Joseph, Minnesota as I prepared for church Sunday morning. I admit I fantasized about returning to my flannels and sipping cocoa under a thick blanket. But below freezing temps are not cause to skip church in the Land of 10,000 lakes. “Minnesota Nice” folks keep up their daily jogs in knee length Lycra, walk with their kids to bus stops, and according to a member at my daughter’s church, horseback ride throughout the most bitter months of the year. So I determined not to be a cold weather casualty and donned another layer before going out the door.
Speaking of weather conditions, I recall a time during the Findlay, Ohio floods in June of 1981 when we naively ventured out to services at College First Church of God. We spent extra time searching for dry streets to take us from the south to the north side of Findlay. It didn’t occur to either of us that roads may be closed. It turns out church was being held, although we were the only family from our part of town that showed up. Flooding and a ten-week old daughter could have kept us at bay. I guess it’s just not our style to stay home.
(I must add that my heart breaks for dear souls that have been deeply wounded by the church. I understand that their primary need may be to find a safe place for healing apart from a house of worship. If that is your personal history, I pray that you find a community who lovingly attends to you.)
So, why do you go to church? Perhaps out of obedience to the scriptural imperative. Or maybe you just love being there on Sunday mornings. A little research reveals that neither duty nor delight is a present-day motivating factor for many that profess Christ in the United States. Choosing to stay home Sunday mornings is no longer a church member anomaly, but a once a month or less reality for many at my local church. This habit mirrors scores of Christians in U.S. churches.
“While tens of millions of Americans attend church each weekend, the practice has declined in recent years. According to Barna Group’s 2014 tracking data, overall church attendance has dipped from 43% in 2004 to 36% today. But beyond a dip in attendance numbers, the nature of churchgoing is changing. Regular attendees used to be people who went to church three or more weekends each month—or even several times a week. Now people who show up once every four to six weeks consider themselves regular churchgoers.”
“Come to church!” was our pastor’s cry in his 2018 New Year’s sermon titled “All IN.” He stated current data that reports a church goer’s monthly attendance average is 1.8 Sundays. Pastor Nate recognizes a capacity-driven mindset within today’s church attendee. In other words, if my life is on marginless overdrive throughout the week, I might lessen the stress by resting at home on Sunday morning.
I am blessed with a community at Park Street Brethren Church that is energizing, a stress reliever if you will. Catching up with those I might not connect with otherwise, glorifying God together in song, and receiving a challenging message enriches and empowers me.
Sunday worship . . . a mandatory ending to a frenetic six days?
Or a beginning again as I face a new week . . .
I choose the latter.