Are You a Part-Time Church Goer? You Might Be Surprised

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We don’t go to church because of guilt. We are the church because of grace.

Geoff and Christine are thirty-something churchgoers who love Jesus and love their three kids. They consider themselves faithful members of New Life Community Church.

Their oldest is about to be in the youth group, and their youngest is finally out of diapers. Christine has been involved in the kids’ ministry through the years. Geoff is a deacon.

But they are part-timers when it comes to church attendance, and they never set out to be.

They are not alone.

Recent statistics show that an increasing number of evangelicals who are firm in their faith are flabby in their practice of actually gathering with their brothers and sisters in worship. It’s the part-time syndrome, and it can sneak up on any of us.

Let’s go back to Geoff and Christine. There are 52 Sundays a year, and last year, they attended a worship gathering on 28 of those Sundays. (That’s an average of about twice a month.)

What happened?

Vacation: To maximize his allotted days, Geoff took the family to the mountains during the kids’ spring break, stretching over two weekends (one of which happened to be Easter!). There was the summer beach vacation, another stretch of a week and two weekends, and then a fall getaway. Total = 5 Sundays.

Sports: Their oldest son is on a travel soccer team. Many of the games are on weekends, and they believe it would be a better testimony to be among unbelievers on Sunday mornings rather than let down the team. Total = 9 Sundays.

Sickness: With their youngest child going to preschool, the family seems more susceptible to illnesses than before, and sickness always seems to hit on the weekends. Total = 3 Sundays.

Guest Preacher: When Pastor Jon is out of town, Geoff and Christine usually take the weekend off. They never like the guest speaker as much as Pastor Jon. Total = 3 Sundays.

Visiting In-Laws: Christine’s parents come twice a year to spend the weekend with the family. To maximize their time, they usually spend the weekends catching up and doing some shopping. Total = 2 Sundays.

Holiday: Thanksgiving weekend, and the week in between Christmas and New Year’s, the family is traveling. Total = 2 Sundays.

Geoff and Christine may be a fictional couple, but their situation is true for many of us. Recently, a church leader told me their most faithful attendees are only in church 2-3 times a month.

They basically expect churchgoers to be “hit or miss” every week.

Trevin Wax Trevin Wax is first and foremost a follower of Jesus Christ. Trevin currently serves the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. He has been a regular blogger since 2006 and regularly contributes articles to publications such as Christianity Today. He authored two books, "Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals" (2010) and "Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope" (2011).

More from Trevin Wax or visit Trevin at http://trevinwax.com

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  • gerbrand

    Being on holliday is no reason not to attend church. In Kenia we had a lively time even though the service was much more structured as in Zambia. We certainly will not forget our visit with fellow Christians
    In South Africa we were shocked to see how you can attend church without coming to meet God. The women were almost not dressed and the men discussed bussiness while the sermon was being held. It was a great example of how we can forget why we are coming to church and how pastors can accept too much in order to fill the seats. There was certainly no fear or respect for God. God’ love was missing – love for God, God’s love for us is always available. we must just accept it.
    In the Philipines we saw how a whole nation can serve God. It was my 1st time to attend a Catholic church and guess what? They serve God too!!!.
    In the Philipines i saw how a huge, masive shopping came to a standstill within 2 seconds. Everything stopped, all talking, walking, transactions. Everybody waited while somebody prayed. Everybody said Amen and then walked on.
    There was no noncence of offending others, of not making a scene. The nation is proud to serve God and dont stand back for anyone
    on holliday you nay learn new lessons you will never learn at home. Attend church even while on leave.

  • Mark Johnson

    While I understand the premise of this article, I’m afraid it misses the point a bit. We confuse “going to church” with “being the church” as well as limiting the couples involvement in church only to ways that can be tracked by attendance. What about all the times throughout the week that they gather with folks from their local church? Coffee, meals, maybe even at that soccer practice; these are places we can’t track, but if we believe God that “when 2 or more are gathered…” then are we overlooking these times? If there is intentionality about these weekly moments, then certainly they are the church moving out of the 4 walls and a roof. What the couples interaction with other churches while on vacation? It won’t get “credited” for their attendance at their local church, but they certainly are gathering with the Church.

    • Ryan

      Great points Mark. Having recently come out of 17 years of professional church ministry, I completely understand your points and agree with them. My wife and recently opened a coffee shop and have found that we are able to fellowship and minister to MANY more people than we ever could at a church. People that would NEVER step foot inside a church for a million dollars are much more open at my coffee shop. I have met so many people who have been hurt by a church or a pastor (or pastors) that we are able to give encouragement and healing to those. We intentionally pray every morning before we open that God would use us to be a light to the community and reach those who we couldn’t otherwise reach. We attend a local church somewhat regularly but have no problem missing it to fellowship with others or even take a day of rest since we each put in 81 hours a week. We purposefully do not advertise as a “Christian” coffee shop but have no problem sharing that we are Christians. I think its part of the whole idea of “being the church” that Jesus calls us to be.

      I think it’s important to understand that each person is different with different needs from a local church body. Some need that fellowship 3 or 4 times a week, some not as often. Some need that weekly ladies bible study group or couple’s retreat and that’s fine. But many of us have been raised with the idea that God has nothing better to do than sit up in heaven with a huge tally sheet keeping track of how many times you go to XYZ church or function. Regardless of the pastor’s message, the music being played, or the “whatever” that’s going on, what’s truly important is that we live out God’s Word in our lives 24/7, especially when we’re NOT at a church building. As 1 Peter 3:15 says, we should always be ready to share the hope we have in Christ.

      • Jerry

        Ryan in my 25 years of being a Christian and knowing hundreds of people I have not met one person that was not faithful to the house of God that had a strong walk with The Lord.

        • Greg

          I think the point that Mark and Ryan were trying to make is that missing a Sunday morning service here and there does not make you “unfaithful to the house of God”. The Sunday morning service is but one component of the church. Someone who is being discipled, is discipling others, is growing in their faith and understanding through the reading of scripture, and is serving the body of Christ and the world, is a devoted full time Christian whether or not they showed up every Sunday.
          It’s very tempting as a leader to judge people based on things we can easily measure, such as church attendance. But perhaps that isn’t the best way to measure a person’s walk with God. In fact, it might not even be a particularly good way.

  • Jerry

    I believe that if you have kids it’s important to show them commitment. It’s better to be faithful to church than weekend soccer matches. If The Lord is number 1 in your life it will show in all the areas of your life including church attendance, reading the word, and your prayer life.

    • Ryan

      For some reason we have made church attendance a symbol of our commitment to Christ. And we assume that someone who does not regularly attend church as much as we do is not as committed to Christ. I mean no disrespect but are we showing commitment to Christ or to the church? Did any of Jesus ministry or miracles take place in a church? How many people in the Bible found salvation in a church? Church has a purpose but should never be used a measure for someone’s relationship with God.

      • Jay

        I see your point Ryan but this article isn’t referring to Church as a building so much as it’s referring to the Church as a body of believers gathering together. The Jesus and his disciples were constantly together as he taught them and matured them in the faith. We should follow that example.