Evangelist Dwight Moody said, "Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man."
However, in our day, studies show that American Christians attend church less and less than in previous generations.
In the home of my youth, only sickness kept us from being at church. If Mom was sick, Dad and I headed to church. If I was sick, one of them stayed home and the other went to church. Sunday was the Lord's Day, and the idea of not going or taking a Sunday off was unthinkable. Except for vacations and sickness, I recall one Sunday in 17 years of my youth that we did not go to church on Sunday.
my parents taught me how much they valued our going to church on the
Lord's Day. I was a part of a neighborhood swim team, and that summer
weekend they planned on having a swim team lock-in on Saturday night at our pool. I assumed I would participate.
I vividly recall my mother saying, "No, son, you won't be going.
We are Christians, and the Bible says that Sunday is the Lord's Day.
We worship God on Sunday morning. That takes priority over a lock-in."
I remember walking to the back of our yard, sitting under an apple tree, and pouting for a long time. In my disappointment, I pondered what Mom had just said and how important my parents took participating in our local church. I did not realize at the time that they were teaching me a valuable life-lesson and spiritual discipline.
Just because that was my experience does not make it right or wrong. It just makes it my experience. You may choose to let your child go to the lock-in. But the point is that my parents had a conviction - as have Christians historically - that Sunday belonged to the Lord.
Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes, “We are to make it a priority of our lives that on this day we will be
with God’s people, we will be with the redeemed, we will be with the
saints, and we will gather together to prepare for
eternity, to be confronted with the Word of God, to edify one another
and to yearn for that eternal rest which is promised unto us by the
grace and mercy of God."
He writes, “I am convicted as I am confronted about the fourth commandment not
about Sabbath keeping but about Lord’s Day breaking. I am
convicted that as I read the fourth commandment, Israel’s responsibility
to keep the Sabbath was, if anything, less important than the church’s
responsibility to keep the Lord’s Day.”
I remember talking with our former Minister to Children when I was in seminary - about 1996. She said something like, "In the fifteen years since you were in our children's ministry, the attitude of parents has changed. Church is no longer the priority - it is just one of many things they juggle in their schedule. They think nothing of missing church to go to a ball game, school function, or entertainment. Your parents wanted to know what we were teaching the children
and how they could help. Parents today want to drop their children
off. It is a different day." That conversation took place twenty years ago, so I know the culture has shifted even more.
The discipline of church attendance is not in order to make us all legalists. Instead, it is to train our families up in the ways of the Lord, to provide weekly opportunity to sit under the Word of God, to teach our children to listen to God's Word, to encourage other believers, to pray together, and to teach our kids that our lives are a part of something much bigger than our personal pleasure.