It's a story that is replayed quite frequently among people I know. Friday night hits and the group starts slipping away to go home. Somebody, usually my wife, calls out, "See you in Sabbath School tomorrow."
There is a shifty-foot filled silence as eyes dart about the room. "Yeah, we'll try to be there."
It seems that sleep is the ultimate deterrent for most I know. This issue has been something that has bothered me for more than four years. At that time, most of the people that would choose sleep over church were college students who would say up front, "Nine-thirty? That's so early. I'll still be in bed." God wouldn't wake up early for you either, was my usual response. Since then, I've tried to tone it down. What bothers me is that if something demands your time, such as a job or school, I know that people get up and move. But there is something casual enough about church that allows so many people to roll over and sleep on.
This whole irritation magnified a few months ago. Having a 3 month old child is no simple thing. And getting said child ready to go anywhere is task that doubles my normal preparation time. Still, my wife and I do what it takes (getting up early, mostly) to get our whole family to church. Never before has sleep been a more enticing option, and yet we still do what we can to make it to our Bible study classes as close to on time as possible. With this is mind, my rage (maybe righteous indignation) flares. How hard is it to get up in the morning? If I can make it with a child, then I see no reason others can't do the same thing without such a time-handicap.
This is becoming a rant, not what I intended. Reality is, I fear for communal spirituality. In college, I was all for skipping church, all the while declaring, "Going to church doesn't make you a holy person." Though I still believe that, I've found that a community of believers is more than beneficial--it is spiritually mature. Church is a place to reestablish faith, and in many cases, defend it. To find God in the morning among people who carry their own beliefs, so way off-base, is an excellent exercise to engage in. Also, my wife and I often try to get other searching-for-God Christians to attend. My wife's sister, for instance, brought her boyfriend (for all practical purposes, an atheist) one week. The room was nearly empty. My closest friends did not attend. Nothing in my recent history has pissed me off so thoroughly. Here's a situation that requires a gathering of Christians to show an example, to dispel many pre-conceived ideas. But when the time came, they chose to stay home. They were ready and willing to socialize afterwards, but by that time I was furious, brooding, and crabby.
As I said earlier, I do not fear for the salvation of any of my friends. Our conversations smell of spirituality, and our Bible studies seem ripe with blessings. But there appears to be a lack of concern for church, an issue I've never before concerned myself with. Recent times have shown me, though, that when Christians don't gather together, damage is done. Whether it be in the minds of the few that blog their frustrations weeks after the fact, or the damage is done among the searching, the damage still exists and strains to maim relationships and weaken holiness.