Unless you were living under a rock back in 2001 when the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon were made the targets of terrorist attacks, you know how this attack on U.S. soil brought a nation together unlike anything else we had seen in days preceding the events and/or what we have seen afterward. Those affected by the terrorist attacks lost countless lives - moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles - all in a moment's time, all without warning. The senselessness of the attacks sent many wondering if the beginning of something as catastrophic as World War III was about to begin. One of the trends which was observed in the after-math of these attacks was the sudden "up-surge" in church attendance. Across America, in large cities and small townships, people flocked to churches - people who hadn't been to church in years, or ever at all. The events caused some to examine their personal commitment to values they had been raised with, while others were seeking some sort of "community" with which to grieve and heal. Then, almost without anyone noticing, the trend "downward" in church attendance began again. We have to wonder if this simply represents a nation becoming more comfortable again, kind of drifting into a sense of apathy, or is this part of another shift in our values which has come like many other shifts in the past. Church attendance is not the sole indicator of a person's "value system", but it does represent a sense of community which is like no other. There is much we cannot receive alone in our exploration of scripture - it was meant to be shared, chewed on together, and then given out so others can also benefit from it. Maybe this is what we will miss more in our drift away from church attendance more than anything else we might recognize in this trend.
Choose my instruction instead of silver; choose knowledge rather than the finest gold. (Proverbs 8:10 GNT)
In 2015 it is predicted among those who analyze church attendance and statistics related to what individuals report to hold as "beliefs" that one of the most noticeable "trends" we shall see in this generation is the "pulling away" from church attendance. The ever-increasing options to "attend" church online will present a "different" way to "go to church". What once was reserved for those who were "shut in" may just become the increasing trend among those who want to "do church" on their schedule rather than the traditional schedule of "Sunday church services" at the local church. I don't think we fully appreciate what missing out on the "gathering together" may do to us as a nation (and as individuals). We need something called "fellowship" - the companionship of those who are working through life's challenges just like you are and the learning which comes from walking these paths together.
We are encouraged to choose instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than gold. Why? There is more benefit in the purposeful application of truth than in any other pursuit we undertake in life. Where does this purposeful pursuit begin? Most of the time it begins when someone else begins to unlock the door to truth we might not have unlocked on our own! Think about the times when you have heard even one or two lines in a sermon and then had those few thoughts begin to spark new insight in your own life. The thing happening there was this "unlocking" of the door. The truth was always there - it just wasn't connected with your lock! Sometimes we need one another to help us "get the key in the lock", so to speak!
When we begin to drift from our commitment to each other in fellowship, we also begin to drift in our commitment to exploration of the truth. Don't believe me? Think about it - do you actually get as much from reading the book as you do when you actually get to sit down with the author face-to-face? I remember the day when I got to spend an entire evening with Corrie Ten Boom. I was an impressionable teenager, just beginning to find my way in life, forming my own set of values. Her books were great. Her stories of surviving the horrific times of Hitler's attack on Jews were riveting. But...when I got to meet her, touch her hands, see the love deeply ingrained into the lines of her face, and hear the kindness of her words which spoke of God's love and protection, something "clicked" inside me about "who" she loved and "who" loved her.
We don't have times when we get to sit "face-to-face" with God the Father. Sure, we enjoy his presence with us and even get to talk straight with him about matters of our heart. Yet, he isn't like the guy next to us, with flesh and blood, arms and feet, and the like. Maybe this is why he gave us each other - so we could relate to him in the small ways each of us reflect him. When we are with each other, we are really with little bits and pieces of God! We are seeing, hearing, and feeling him through others. We cannot neglect the instruction to gather together - it isn't optional! We need the connection - just sayin!