You can do a search of the internet and find lots of information about the excuses people give for not attending church. Some of the most common excuses seem to be that the worship services are boring, the beliefs of churches and the person has other commitments. Some religious leaders have taken these excuses and applied them to other things. One such leader made a list of reasons why he was giving up eating based on what he considered to be the most common excuses for not attending church. Another religious leader made a list of reasons he was giving up sports based on the same list of excuses. Someone once made a list of ways that a church could eliminate all of the excuses by providing recliners and cots, etc for the people who attend. While all of these can seem comical to people who attend on a regular basis and there may be some truth to the belief that people are offering poor excuses for not attending church, I do not find the tactic of making fun of the excuses to be very helpful. I doubt the infrequent and non-attendees are insulted by the remarks of these individuals and may find the remarks comical as well, but it is not likely that a person will start attending church after hearing or reading a comical critique of their excuses. At the best such a person will just keep doing what he is doing, which is not attending church. At the worst a person might add the excuse of being made fun of to his list of reasons he does not attend church.
I think that, when all of the excuses are analyzed, you will find that all of the excuses boil down to one word, "priority". Everyone has a list of priories that governs their actions, but many people have not considered what their priories are. Some people use different sets of priorities from day to day or hour to hour. Many people will say that God must come first, so the list of priorities for a person who is active in church might look like this:
For some people the list of priorities might look like this:
Or like this:
There are other things that could be on the list and there are many possible orderings of the list, but let's consider the lists I have provided. You will notice that in none of the lists have self in the number one position. While it is possible that a person will place himself before all other things, most people place a higher priority on something and in my unprofessional opinion people who place themselves as the first priority in their lives are either insane or soon will be. You will notice that in the first list I placed God first and church third, but in the others I combined God and church. Some people equate God and church. Doing so can lead to problems because it necessitates moving God from the position he deserves to a position that is below the things a person considers to be a higher priority than church involvement. Some people equate working to provide for their family with family. This may, though not always, lead to a person spending more time at work and less with his family.
A person who places God first in his life will naturally attend church on a regular basis because God has commanded Christians to continue to assemble ourselves. He will also be involved in other ways as God leads him. The order of the other priorities for such a person is not as important because God wants the best for us and if we put God's will first in our life then everything else will fall into place.
What about the other people? It is easy for us to just say that they are wrong and that they should change their priorities, but I don't believe that is what God intended. Some people have to go through some really tough times before they get their priorities straight. Consider some of the people who attend church. Why do they attend church? Why do you attend or not attend church? It is good if you can say that you attend church because you feel that God wants you to attend church, but there are many other reasons why people attend church. Below I have listed some of the reasons people attend church and have placed the driving priority beside it.
- It is the will of God. (God)
- I go out of habit. (Self)
- My family needs to be in church. (Family)
- I enjoy the services. (Self)
- I like the fellowship. (Self)
- I go to meet business contacts. (Work)
- It's required for salvation. Isn't it? (Self)
- My family or friends would think badly of me if I didn't go. (Self or Family)
- I help in the nursery. (God or Church)
Ideally, everyone in the world would seek the will of God and churches that preach the truth would be filled to the point that every church would have to build a stadium sized building just to hold them all. While that may be ideal, our fleshly nature prevents that from happening. Even Christians who have studied the Bible for years will sometimes place their own wants in front of what God wants for them. We don't always attend church because it is the will of God. Sometimes we attend for our own selfish reasons. Just as we do not always attend for the right reason, we should expect that those we are trying to reach will have the wrong reason. We cannot expect a lost person or a young Christian to always seek the will of God. Though I think we need to be careful which ideas we cultivate as valid reasons to attend church, I believe that we should not discourage people who are attending for the wrong reasons and teach them so they will begin attending for the right reasons.
Some people go to church because they enjoy either the services or the fellowship. Some churches have tried to capitalize on this by trying to entertain the congregation. Entertainment is clearly a good way to draw a crowd and a preacher is more likely to be effective if the congregation is still awake by the time he starts preaching, but it is not clear that it is an effective method of winning souls. Some people try so hard to entertain their congregation that they forget to "preach the Word". I am sure that many of the people who crowded around Jesus were there for the entertainment of watching him heal the sick. Some of these people may have come for the entertainment and were changed after hearing his teaching, but many left unchanged.
It is not a bad thing to provide programs that are attractive to a person who is looking for a place for his family. A person who places his family first in his life is likely to choose a church based on what his family wants rather than whether or not the church teaches the truth. It is sad, but the person who is trying to do the best for his family may end up harming them instead. Churches that teach the truth need to make efforts to attract people who are looking for a family friendly church. The center piece of any such program must be the Word of God. We as churches need to make sure that people who are looking for the right thing for the wrong reason are still able to get the right thing.
Most people want to feel needed. Nothing is worse than feeling like no one will ever ask for your advice or ever ask you to do something. Nowhere is it easier to feel lonely than in a sea of people. Many people who are looking for a church never find one that needs them.
Short note about the author
Timothy is a software engineer living in Fort Worth, Texas. He is the webmaster for http://www.spbcfw.org.