Article: Are you a seasonal Christian? | Jacob Varghese
In a moment everything can change and life can be hard, right? Just when we think, things are going great, a phone call, a diagnosis, or a host of other mishaps can leave us feeling afraid and alone. But from my experience I can say, those who are part of a church family will never feel alone. When life is going great, we have the affirmation of others. And when life throws a curve, we are blessed by loving concern, support, and prayer of the church family. But recently a Christian friend of mine told me that “I don’t go to church anymore. They are all hypocrites!” On more than one occasion I had heard such sort of comments from people I know. Each time I heard such comments, my heart would break because I knew the incredible value of doing life together with the body of Christ. I had long ago learned how Satan used people and circumstances to disappoint us Christians to pull us away from the very people God would use to bless, train, and encourage us at church.
I was sharing this concern with one of my believer friends- why many Christian churches are increasingly empty every week and why Christians are becoming seasonal in attending church services these days. I learned from my talk with him that many don’t have any issues with anyone at church; but are just really busy on weekends doing other things like going on family getaways, fixing stuff around the house, late night programs and parties on Saturday etc. But if these reasons regularly take us away from our church attendance, we need to realize we are choosing the captivity of activity over what God says is more important in our life.
Hebrews 10:25 says “ not to give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but to encourage one another and all the more as you see the day is approaching”. I don’t think the writer of Hebrews could make it any clearer about God’s desire to have us regularly assemble together with His people. We need to realize that God is wanting us to regularly attend church for our good. He wants us as His children, to exhort one another especially as the days grow darker and the time of Christ’s return approaches.
Going to church is not about getting our attendance, nor is it about gaining God’s favor for the week. Church is not a place to go, rather it is a living body where God wants us to become a part––for our good and His glory. The word of God is quick, powerful, and sharper than a sword (Hebrews 4:12), then hearing the preaching of Scripture is vital to our spiritual well-being. Without living in close fellowship with people in the church, one can never really experience the help and hope Christ offers to His children. So, the faithful involvement in a local church is very important to us as His children. Nothing else can replace the beauty of coming together corporately to worship Him. Meeting regularly with other believers is a source of encouragement and strength. When we live in community with other Christians we may get splurged of emotions and what spills out of us then is what is in our heart. God uses our interactions with others to show us the areas He would have us repent and turn to reflect more on the image of His Son.
Working alongside Christians in a church fellowship is a wonderful way to grow our love for God and for others. And it is also God’s way of showing us areas He wants us to mature in our walk with Christ. If you have stopped attending church because people hurt you, congregation is not up to your expectations, or you feel people are hypocritical; then know that it is the enemy’s tactic to divide and conquer. If he can pull you from the flock, you are vulnerable to his deceptions and attacks. Satan will use your lack of love for God’s people to quench your love for God.
From preaching to encouraging, hospitality to administration, God equips His children with gifts to serve Christ. When a church body is healthy, its members realize that they are part of the congregation not only to receive but also to be a blessing. My experiences reveal that in most churches, 20 percent
of the people do 80 percent of the church work. This is not to make you feel guilty and to push you into “getting involved” at your church, rather it is to inspire you. Imagine, God has supernaturally gifted you so that He can glorify Himself through you as you serve Christ. In the same way, when you become a partner in ministry with your church, you experience joy in your heart, grow in His love for you, and will be able to joyfully thank God for your faithful service to Christ.
In the church we will discover many people who have walked the road ahead of us. Their wisdom, insights, and even vulnerability to teach us from their mistakes is one way God provides to help us grow. And not only is the church a wonderful place to find amazing mentors, it is also the place God wants to use us to mentor someone else. Also if we want to teach our children to love God, they need to see that we love God. And if we want them to learn to love God’s people, they have to observe us loving God’s people. Our children will learn more about faith from watching us live out our own faith journey… than from us telling them about God. Jesus said the world will know we are His disciples by our love for one another, so obviously Satan wants to destroy any sense of love and community in the body of Christ. When we commit to loving God and loving others, the light shining from our life can draw others to know Jesus.
Everyone is looking for acceptance and a place to belong. Whether people admit it or not, they all long to be known and loved, for who they are. When God’s people commit to aggressively love each other by covering their sins and readily forgiving each other, their love will be a light that shines brightly in a crooked and perverse generation. My heart goes out to those who have come to church when life is hard and then when their needs are met, they fall away again––only to come back when there is another disaster or such other difficult situation. While the church congregation is happy to help them, we know the real help they need is a genuine relationship with Jesus and His people. If people are accustomed going to church when they have a need, why don’t they try going when they are doing okay and alright also?
I started noticing recently many long-time Christian people are deciding not to attend church services any longer. I am really concerned, worried and saddened. Some suggest that people who quit church are not true Christians or they are not being faithful to God. That may or may not be true. Certainly, there are those for whatever reason have walked away from God and have therefore left the Church. However, I have noticed many genuine believers are shifting their church attendance patterns. Some of my surveys and discussions with church dropouts, I found some reasons why committed Christians do not attend church. It can be brought in to some broad categories such as Physical Reasons, Spiritual Reasons, Relational Reasons, Logistical Reasons, Preferential Reasons, Cultural Reasons and Personal Reasons etc.
Some of the responses I have got from my enquiries are -I have to work on Sundays, I have family obligations on the weekends, I feel like church is boring, I don’t feel like there is a place for my child or teenager, I don’t feel like going to church makes a difference in my life, I am offended by the church and have been hurt by church members or leaders, I don’t trust church leadership, I don’t feel like there is a place for me to lead, we see nothing different in Christians, we hear nothing but judgment, we hear only stories and humor in the preaching, Nobody connects with us, Dramatic life situations and change has turned their attention elsewhere, They see no relevance in Sunday messages, they are tired of church politics and internal fights.
Yes, I can understand some Christians struggle to attend church for physical reasons like exhaustion, illness, disease, or chronic pain. Maybe the dominant reason is spiritual. They are in a dark place, Christianity has lost its luster and they are living in hidden sin. Sometimes the challenge is relational— a marital problem, a broken friendship, an awkward personality. Many have issues mainly logistical.
They live far away, or their work hours change from week to week. Some frustrations are about preferences. They don’t like the music, the liturgy, the way people dress, or the leadership style. They wish the sermons were shorter, the people friendlier, the coffee better. Their preferences might reflect biblical principles or might just be erratic. But whether they are right or wrong, constant frustration isn’t a good sign. Some of their preferences are cultural. Whether it’s a language barrier or other elements that keep them feel like an outsider, cultural differences can make it difficult to engage at church. Finally, some have personal problems with the church. Whether their wounds are caused by others or self-inflicted, personal problems can make it hard to love a church, trust a church, or even attend a church.
We all have different personalities, situations, and challenges. But I hope the categories above kick start our thinking as we assess our own situation. I cannot just understand or diagnose the problem why are many Christian churches increasingly becoming empty every week or why Christians becoming seasonal in attending church services these days. I also cannot give or guarantee an easy solution. But God promises wisdom for those who ask: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him”.