Worship Apathy

A member texted me a link to this article on apathy for weekly Christian worship.  It makes reference to this original article in Christianity Today.  In both cases, I think the authors are making some fundamentally incorrect assumptions about worry over apathy for worship and/or disinterest in worship or prioritizing other activities over worship.

Yes, pastors talk about this a fair amount.  But almost always within the context of Christians, not non-Christians as both these articles seem to assume.  I don’t expect a non-Christian to see an issue with going to a football game or seeing Sunday morning as a great time for their child’s soccer practice.  The problem is more and more Christians are led to think the same way.

Yes, our culture is becoming increasingly unchurched, and this means not simply non-attendance but no actual experience with church attendance or the Bible or the Christian faith even in their youth.  Although a majority of Americans still claim belief in God, what this means is harder to pin down in any one survey.  But even among Christians, I’ve seen some survey results claiming “regular attenders” now means once every six weeks.

That certainly is indicative of apathy.  And apathy regarding Christian worship is something Christians have, not non-Christians.  Non-Christians don’t even think about it to begin with, as the Christianity Today article states.  But a Christian who thinks worship every month and a half is adequate does evince either a strong apathy or a complete lack of understanding of what Christian worship is for.  Or both.

This isn’t a new problem, as this article from a dozen years ago points out.  While this article points out some good reasons for a lack of regular participation in worship by Christians (priority conflicts, consumer mentality, etc.) it overlooks a pretty important one – why should Christians be in worship to begin with?

One could note that for at least 3500 years God’s people have been engaged in regular (weekly) worship.  That might seem reason enough for some folks, and while I’m inclined to agree, I agree only to the extent that this might be a reason Christians begin or return to weekly worship schedules.  It isn’t sufficient to keep them there.  Either they receive something when they come to worship they can’t get anywhere else which keeps them coming back and ensures they prioritize that time over other options, or they aren’t going to keep coming back or re-prioritizing their lives.

There are good Biblical, theological reasons for weekly worship.  No, the New Testament doesn’t set out a definition for weekly worship, in large part because that was assumed.  Early Christians were Jewish, and Jewish sabbath with worship was a weekly part of their lives.  It was just understood that following Jesus would also involve this sort of weekly worship.  After all, it was here, in weekly worship, that believers could be taught more about Jesus’ life and death and resurrection.  They could be encouraged and guided in how to live lives consistent with those realities, in anticipation of further promises to be fulfilled in terms of eternal life.  Believers could gather together to support one another and get through hard times together.  While it may not have looked exactly like this, it would have been just as intentional.  And here believers could be reminded of the source and nature of their hope as their lives here and now became increasingly complicated with increasingly widespread and violent persecutions.  In the company of fellow believers, the faithful also had opportunities to put their talents and gifts to work for the benefit of their entire community of faith.

Many in my congregation value gathering together for weekly worship because the congregation has become their family.  They genuinely enjoy getting together to see one another, an added benefit of regular, intentional community.

What do you receive in worship?


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