We thank Thom Rainer for giving us permission to repost his article. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter (@ThomRainer) and at Facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer. This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on May 22, 2017.
About 20 years ago, a church member was considered active in the church if he or she attended three times a week.
Today, a church member is considered active in the church if he or she attends three times a month.
Something is wrong with this picture. For 2,000 years, the local church, as messy as it is, has been God’s place for believers to gather, worship, minister, and be accountable to one another.
And every time I write something about church membership and attendance, I inevitably hear cries of “legalism” or “the church is not a building” or “the church is a messed up institution.”
But the local church, the messy local church, is what God has used as His primary instrument to make disciples. But commitment is waning among many church members.
- We are minimizing the importance of the local church. When we do, we are less likely to attend. A few drops of rain may keep many folks from attending church, but it won’t stop them from sitting three hours in the downpour watching their favorite football team.
- We worship the idols of activities. Many members will replace a day in their church with a day at kid’s soccer or softball games or sleeping off the hangover of the previous day’s activities.
- We take a lot of vacations from church. I am not anti-vacation. But 20 years or so ago, we would make certain we attended a church where we were taking a vacation. Today, many members take a vacation from church.
- We do not have high expectations of our members. Any purposeful organization expects and gets much of it members, whether it’s a sports team or a civic organization. It is ironic that most churches do not come close to being a high expectation church.
- We make infrequent attendees leaders in our churches. When we do, we are making a clear statement that even the leaders of the church do not have to be committed to the place they supposedly lead.
I heard a leader of an organization tell the members he did not want them if they were not fully committed. They could not be AWOL if they wanted to be a part of the group. He expected full commitment.
He is a high school football coach. And all the team members follow that high expectation of commitment.
If we truly expect to make a difference in our communities and our families, members of local churches need to have at least the same level of commitment as members of sports teams.
After all, the mission of each local church is far more important.
At least it should be.