In the Christian faith Sunday has usually been earmarked as the day for Christians to gather.  It’s linked to the historical point that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead occurred on a Sunday so it makes abundant sense to make the day special.  Occasionally due to a variety of circumstances groups will meet as Christian congregations on other days (I visited one geographical location where due to internal religious pressure in the country, the Christians felt it best to meet on Fridays) but by and large Sunday is the day for Christian believers.

But maybe the larger question is not “when” to meet, but “why” to meet?  Certainly the last 40 years has seen a decline in Christians congregating.  In my country it’s referred to as “the Great Canadian Drop-Off”.  In 1970 close to 85% of the professing Roman Catholics in Canada attended a religious gathering at least once a month.  Today, the number is closer to 15%.  Amongst protestants in 1970 over 40% reported that they had “been to church” in the past month.  Today the number is just over 20%, literally less than half.

I am associated with the evangelical wing of the Christian faith and interestingly, our attendance numbers have remained solid over the years though I suspect they are a little spongy in the last while. We have not experienced the Great Canadian Drop-Off, though I think we may be seeing a little of the Great Canadian Sneak Off.  On any given Sunday in evangelical churches, close to 30% of the people who would identify with the congregation are “not there”.  They are traveling, visiting family elsewhere, at a hockey tournament, working, sleeping in, at the cottage, “needing a break from church”.  The ardent evangelical would be participating in his or her church and consider himself regular, but is content to be present 50% of the time.

What do I make of it?  It’s easy to preach to the choir and use the Sunday morning platform to yell at “those folk who are not here today”.  That’s really helpful (I’m kidding of course).  Deeper and more honest evaluation is necessary.  A few years back the National Hockey League went on strike and Hall of Fame Goaltender -Turned Politician Ken Dryden lamented that if/when the strike were settled, he feared the fans would not return because for some “hockey was a habit, not a passion” and when the habit was broken, it was gone.  (Dryden was wrong by the way…attendance in Canadian cities is through the roof in the past 5 years.  Maybe he was right though?  Maybe it takes Canadians longer than a year to lose a bad habit? Smile).

Anyway, is the same true for church going—have Canadians simply fallen out of the habit?  Other equally inviting, even more inviting options exist and it’s tempting to “sneak off” to other choices?  Enterprising church leaders posture that “we need to be better than the options”.  If you are not careful though, you begin to see yourself as competing with Wal Mart for Sunday morning, or a volleyball tournament, or Denny’s brunch menu…and if you do–you are dead.  Christians are on thin ice if they think they can out distance the competition for people’s interests.

I think–and here is where opinion kicks in—I think Christians need to remember their message, proclaim it, and live it out.  Period.  Let the chips fall where they may.  The message?  God loves us, even to the point that He would sacrifice His own Son as a gesture of that love, and that as a result, we should do our best to love one another.  That’s a powerful position.

Here is the clinical question to put to the test—when you gather as a Christian in whatever context that might be…are you reminded that God loves you?  and do you feel loved amongst His people?  If not, I can see why you might be willing to “sneak off” because habits are hard to sustain.

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