By Elder Tan Chin Tiong
The trend is practically universal: fewer people are attending church every year and more so over the past 2 years.
Most churches have lost, on average, 20% of their congregation since the start of the pandemic. Of those who are still joining services in some form, many are opting for online services instead of ‘live’ services as this is losing its appeal. Another trend is to “church surf” - you can access almost any church you want, anywhere, anytime so there is even less reason to attend a church onsite.
The reality is that, whether onsite or online, over the years, most churches have been losing ground on meaningful connection with their congregation, especially with the younger generation.
We are fully aware that we should not attend church services for attendance’s sake. Rather, I hope that beyond our physical presence, we can be persuaded to participate in the church by the true calling of the church. May this divine calling from the Lord excite, energise and motivate us so that we will not settle for convenience but act on conviction.
I would like to share a few aspects of this calling that I hope will inspire you to embrace the church wholeheartedly once again.
1) We are the church
There is no logging in/out of church. We are the church. We do not switch church on and off. As sons and daughters of His, we become the church that God Himself has built and established. The word “church” is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia, which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” We are the congregation called together by God for His purpose.
The calling to come is not from a corporate organisation trying to drive up attendance. The calling is from the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is a call for us to be counted as part of an assembly so our active presence or prolonged absence makes a significant difference. Our participation (or lack of) does not only affect us individually but the church as a whole, one way or another.
2) We are called to be contributors and not consumers of the church
The church does not exist primarily for our benefit. Yes, we want the church to feed us spiritually and we want to receive mutual support from each other. Yes, we need to grow in our discipleship journey. But the outcome must go from self to others and from receiving to giving. We do not just go to church to be served, we go to serve. This is the motto of our Lord Jesus and it must be ours too.
3) We are called to love people and not programs
Attending classes for knowledge can be achieved via Zoom and I believe this is one area many churches are doing well during this season. On the other hand, relationship building and loving people can only be achieved through personal touches. The broken-hearted, the sick, the lonely and the discouraged are best ministered to with the warmth of human presence. This is a call that the church could work on more if we truly want to love one another, just as Christ has loved us. Do not crave for better programs and fall in love with the speakers. Crave for opportunities to live out the truth and love the people just as God has loved us.
4) We are called to reach out and not settle in
A church that is perpetually looking inward will die a slow but certain death. So we need to make sure the church is optimally positioned to accomplish its ultimate mission: reaching unchurched people with the love and hope of Christ. Nothing is more exciting. Nothing will change the world more powerfully than the love of Christ shared with a world that so desperately needs it. Engage the church with this agenda and, maybe, not only will we see more people drawn back to the church but come back on fire for the Lord!
So what are my aspirations for The Bible Church in 2022? One church puts it so well that I would like to share it with you; “We seek to become a haven, a home, a harbour for those in need; a family for the needy, the lonely; a school for the untaught; a fortress for the fearful; an open door for those who are shut out; offering love for the unloved; peace for those in chaos; acceptance for the rejected; forgiveness for the guilty; hope for the hopeless; bringing light to darkness; giving life for death.”
Wow! If we all share the same aspirations for the church, I do not think there is a need to worry too much about people not coming back to church. Would you agree with me? Brothers and sisters in Christ, I look forward to your presence and passionate involvement in work of the Lord through The Bible Church in 2022!