I just reread a report was released last year by Reuters which states that members of
the Churches of Christ have the highest rate of weekly church
attendance among all religious groups in the United States of America.
The rankings went as follows:
Church of Christ: 68 percent
Mormon: 67 percent
Pentecostal: 65 percent
Southern Baptist: 60 percent
Nondenominational Protestant: 54 percent
Catholic: 45 percent
Methodist: 44 percent
Presbyterian: 44 percent
Lutheran: 43 percent
Episcopal: 32 percent
Jewish: 15 percent
must confess that I was proud of that Churches of Christ were high on
the list. For all of the weird behaviors of my spiritual kinfolk that
are so eagerly reported with enthusiasm by both our own adherents and
the popular media–I welcome this good news.
However, the "Why"
question keeps bothering me. Why do so many members of Churches of
Christ go to church? That question makes all the difference. I would
hope to hear answers like, "To worship God," "To be encouraged by and
to encourage other Christians," "To study God’s Word," "To recalibrate
life toward the cross."
I’m sure that if I asked any one of my
Sisters or Brothers, they would give me those warm and credible
answers. Yet, God knows the heart, and he might want us to do some
reflection on this question.
Someone once said, "You can stand
in the garage, but it doesn’t make you a car." I know from personal
experience that it is quite easy to "go to church" and not really
worship. Worship is deep, mysterious, complex, and much more. It is
more than ritual, though ritual can facilitate worship powerfully. It
is more than "giving God his due," though all glory is due Him.
The best definition of worship I’ve read or heard comes from William Temple who defines worship as, "quickening
the conscience by the holiness of God, feeding the mind with the truth
of God, purging the imagination by the beauty of God, opening the heart
to the love of God, and devoting the will to the purpose of God." But, worship is even more than this, transcending church attendance.
you do, don’t fail to stop and ask yourself why you go to church. Or,
why you don’t. This question matters. My hope is that the attendance
rate stays high–even grows–but more importantly, that the number of true worshipers grows.
I close with the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: "A
person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think
our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but
it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts
will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us
to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are