Where Are We Headed And Why?

Worship attendance is down. That’s a fact. And it’s not just because of COVID, although the pandemic certainly didn’t help the situation. In 2009, 48% of American Christians said they worshipped every week . By 2020, the percentage of weekly worshippers shrank to 25%! In other words, weekly worship attendance in 2020 as COVID began was about HALF of what it was eleven years before. And this decline is across all age groups. In fact, a higher percentage of “baby boomers” (roughly ages 55-75) stopped attending weekly worship than “millennials” (roughly ages 25-40). As one of my fellow pastors put it, “We have to realize that regular worship no longer means weekly worship, it means maybe once a month.”

It’s important that we recognize this trend for what it is – SIN. In the Third Commandment, the LORD said, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” And Luther explained it by saying, “We should fear and love God that we DO NOT DESPISE preaching and his Word, but regard it as holy and GLADLY HEAR AND LEARN it.”

And what leads us – all of us – to despise preaching and his Word? It’s the same UNHOLY THREE that leads us to every type of sin:
1. The DEVIL whispers in our hear, it won’t hurt if you skip church every once in a while.
2. The WORLD around us by and large rejects what the Bible has to say. Most people don’t worship God anymore. What’s worse, increasingly they scorn those who do.
3. The SINFUL NATURE (or FLESH) in each one of us tells us that we’ve got too much to do, or that we need to rest.

Listening to the unholy three leads to a weak faith, to despair – and can ultimately lead to hell.

But two things fight against the unholy three. 1) Every believer has a NEW SELF. The new self loves God and loves to hear his Word. 2) Reading, hearing, studying, thinking about his Word empowers us to resist the unholy three, and to do what he wants, to do what brings blessings to us. 

Four years ago the Pew Research Center published a report with the title, The World’s Most Committed Christians Live In Africa. In Nigeria and Zambia – two countries in which WELS does Gospel Outreach – 89% and 85% of Christians attend worship AT LEAST once a week. Why? Because in his first letter, the Apostle Peter encourages, “Like newborn babies, CRAVE PURE SPIRITUAL MILK, so that by it, you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). Praise the Lord for their faithfulness! Pray to the Lord that he would lead us to be MORE LIKE THEM – to treasure the opportunities we have to hear about his love for us in Christ EVERY SUNDAY.

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