What is Regular Church Attendance?
People have misconceptions about church attendance. Once a week, once a month, once every couple of months, the responses would be as varied as the number of people that you asked. Sometimes, I wonder if the question people are really considering is, “How often they need to go to church to keep God happy?” This is the first misconception. People view worship as something that the individual does for God. This error effectively takes the Gospel out of worship life. Instead, we should view worship as something that God does for us.
This understanding of God’s service to us is emphasized in our worship services. What is the first thing we sinners do in our divine service? We confess our sins. Throughout our life, we hate, insult, offend, lust, get angry, lie, cheat and steal. We sin! Therefore, we need forgiveness! If we are going to enter the presence of the holy God, our sins must be addressed. In fact, it is this need for forgiveness that drives us to His presence. He is the one that judges, and therefore He is the only one that can forgive us.
When we confess our sins in the divine service, God’s messenger declares to us the gracious forgiveness of all our sins. Jesus told His disciple, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:23) When God’s servant forgives our sins they are really forgiven! God comes to us through His servant and lifts the terrible burden of our guilt. That is certainly something to sing about.
Another misconception about worship is that we come mainly to offer songs and prayers of thanks and praise. Though this is true to a degree, it is not the primary focus. We don’t come to say something to God but to listen to what He has to say to us. Therefore, the second focus of our divine service is the Word of God. Every week we read portions of the Bible and a sermon is delivered on a particular text. Jesus said to His disciples, “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16) We come to church to listen to God speak to us through His messenger. In the Law, God reveals our sins to us. He shows us that we fall short of His glory and deserve eternal death. But in His sweet Gospel, He tells us that He loves so much the He sacrificed Jesus to save us from hell. Once again God comes to us with the forgiveness that Christ won on the cross.
One Sunday, after the service, a woman greeted me at the door and said, “Vicar, have you been looking in my window?” (I was a Vicar at the time.) The sermon had really touched her because of its relevance to her current situation. She felt like I had written the sermon just for her. Now, she didn’t have that same experience every Sunday. But this story emphasizes the need to be in church regularly. What if this Sunday’s is “your” sermon, and you’re not there?
So what is regular church attendance? Regular attendance is taking advantage of every opportunity that God gives you to hear His Word and to receive absolution and the Lord’s Supper. Our need and desire for the forgiveness that Jesus won on the cross motivates us to seek every opportunity to partake of Word and Sacrament. No wonder the writer of the book of Hebrews urges us, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as we see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) May Jesus’ love for you, poor sinner that you are, inspire you to regularly “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 100:4-5) See you in church!