Subject to a better offer?

Subject to a better offer?

For many Christians, regular attendance at church or Bible study is a somewhat scattered thing. There could be many reasons why this particular Sunday might not involve going to church, and being sick is only one of them. Maybe there is a special sporting event on. Maybe you have been invited to a birthday party. Maybe you have an exam on Monday morning. Maybe it has just been a big week and you want a Sunday sleep in. After all, if you go to church most of the time, missing sometimes doesn’t matter much, right?

This kind of attitude seems to be even more prevalent among young adults. I have heard some pastors who mainly deal with young adults say that there is a subtext in any agreement to come to some event or Bible study: it is subject to a better offer. Oh, I’d love to come along to the planned meeting this Tuesday! (Subtext: unless I am tired, or a friend invites me out, or I am seriously involved with the latest Netflix series).  The result is a lot of church services and meetings where the attendees from week to week might be wildly different.

Let me be absolutely clear on something here: you are not saved by your church attendance. You are not saved by going to Bible study every week. You are only saved by grace in Jesus. However, this doesn’t mean that commitment and reliability don’t matter at all. In fact, your involvement in the local church can be a great indicator of how you are going in your faith.

If you are someone who knows you are an irregular church attender or somewhat scattered in your commitment to a Bible study group, let me give you a few reasons to think harder about this.

Your actions show what is of greatest importance to you

You know what matters to you when you need to choose. It is easy to be committed to something when there is no better option. You only commit to something that matters to you. Many people commit to playing football through winter, for example, and that means they come every week, rain or shine. If church or Bible study matters to you because you love to worship God, grow in his Word, and encourage his people, then it will be a better offer than whatever else comes along. If we are willing to drop it for parties or study, it does show where this fits in our personal order of importance.

There are clear warnings in the Bible about the dangers of failing to meet together

There’s the obvious warning in Hebrews 10 that we need to meet together, especially in light of the coming Day of the Lord. We need one another. But this is inherent in so much of the New Testament. The local church is where we are fundamentally united with others and learn to grow in humility, gentleness and patience (Eph 2:1-6). Once we fall out of a habit of regularly meeting with other Christians, we will find that our faith and commitment to Jesus also falter. Our Bible study also drops off and our prayer fizzes out. We need one another more than we think.

The local church is not a service provider, but a place to serve others

Commitment is hard for most of us, and not just when it comes to church. We struggle to commit to a phone service provider or plans our friends make to go for dinner. We can simply choose what seems to benefit us most at the time. Church needs to be in a different category to these things. We don’t just go for a spiritual boost now and then when we need it. No, we need to be involved in a local church in order to use our gifts to serve other people (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12). And to do that well, we need to know people. And to know people, we need to spend time with them regularly. Scattered attendance doesn’t just short-change you; it robs others of your gifts.

If you are a parent, your commitment to the local church will rub off on your children

Children tend to copy their parents. I know that’s a scary thought. I have occasionally noticed turns of phrase or attitudes my wife or I have coming from one of our sons. Your attitude to church is no different. If you come sometimes, and other times you find a better offer, you shouldn’t be surprised when your children also struggle with commitment to a church later on.

There is an opportunity cost to attending church or Bible study, and it is a cost worth paying

The ‘opportunity cost’ is what you lose when you make a choice. For example, if you choose to have pasta for lunch, you lose the opportunity to have sushi. If you choose to be an engineer, this means you won’t be an accountant. If you choose to go to church every Sunday, that closes the door to other options. That is true. However, the other options are not better. Sure, they might seem more exciting, and maybe church seems a bit samey and not that interesting some weeks. But regular church involvement builds your faith, grows your knowledge, changes your character, and helps prepare you for eternity. I think that trumps whatever the better offer might be.