COVID-19 has brought to light an issue that has been boiling below the surface for at least half a century: Christians don’t prioritize church attendance.
There are many in this moment who belong to the high-risk categories, such as the elderly, those with high blood pressure, diabetes, etc., who are rightfully staying home. It is wise and appropriate for people to discern the dangers of public gatherings in the middle of a global pandemic and make the best decision for themselves and their families. However, a common refrain from pastors and church leaders is that they are noticing many of their congregants missing from the church for no good reason. These people go to the grocery store and restaurants, without a mask, on Saturday but claim to be exercising caution on Sunday morning. This built-in excuse is just what many church people needed to break the cycle of intermittent attendance, and not for the better. This is only highlighting a trend that the church in America has experienced for some time.
Years before the pandemic, Mark Dever, in Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, writes that, “the typical Southern Baptist church has 176 members, only 69 of whom are present at the typical Sunday morning worship service,” and he then asks, “where are the other 107 members.” A Gallup poll from 2009 affirms this trend claiming: “Weekly attendance among Protestants has been fairly steady over the past six decades, averaging 42% in 1955 verses 45% in the middle of the current decade.” Gallop asked the same question again in 2018 and came to the same conclusion: “The 45% of Protestants who reported attending church weekly from 2014 to 2017 is essentially unchanged from a decade ago and is largely consistent with the long-term trend.” The American church has had a terrible problem for a long time that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. People do not value church attendance.
The problem isn’t just that pastors want their pews to be filled in order to feel validated or important. Pastors want their people to come to church because it is good for everyone.
First, the Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit gives each individual believer spiritual gifts that are to be used to build up the church. When people make a habit of not participating in the life of the church, the church is not working at full capacity. Those gifts are missing, and the church is not as fruitful as it can be.
Second, the believer who is absent is putting themselves in a very dangerous position. The church is one of God’s tools to teach us and help us grow into Christian maturity. The church has leaders and teachers who hold us accountable and even admonish us in love when necessary. There is a spiritual enemy that wants nothing more than to render your Christian life ineffective, and the best way he can do that is to keep you isolated from the church.
Third, sporadic church participation is a poor witness to the community about the beauty of the gospel. When our family, friends, and neighbors see us missing church on a regular basis, it sends the message that the gospel is not very important. The best way to show that our commitment to Christ is important is to be committed to a local church. Going to church doesn’t save any one of us. Only faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ can reconcile us to our creator God. However, participation in a church goes a long way to helping us honor and glorify Jesus for the sacrifice He made on our behalf, and it goes a long way in helping everyone experience and benefit from the richness of the gospel.
If you’ve gotten out of the habit of participating in your local church, there is no time like the present to recommit and receive the wonderful benefits of your church family.
 Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Third edition (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013). 156.
 Lydia Saad, “Churchgoing Among U.S. Catholics Slides to Tie Protestants,” Gallup.com, April 9, 2009, https://news.gallup.com/poll/117382/Church-Going-Among-Catholics-Slides-Tie-Protestants.aspx.
Lydia Saad, “Catholics’ Church Attendance Resumes Downward Slide,” Gallup.com, April 9, 2018, https://news.gallup.com/poll/232226/church-attendance-among-catholics-resumes-downward-slide.aspx.