From the Pastor's Desk
Spiritual Malaise, Apathy and the Sabbath
Attendance is Down! Giving is Down! What are we going to do? How can we make ends meet?
Those are the actual cries I am hearing these days. Our attendance this year (all of 2018) is down over the previous year. Winter residents are coming later and leaving sooner, more and more winter residents are simply staying “back home,” whether for health reasons or financial reasons (face it, maintaining 2 households year round is costly!).
But there also seems to be a decrease in “year rounders’” participation. Fewer people in worship, fewer people in classes, fewer people showing up for social things like pot lucks and trunk or treat.
There are many reasons people choose not to participate in church. From family commitments to football games, from late night Saturday to a Game of Thrones marathon on Sunday. Illness, of course …
Once upon a time, family commitments would be scheduled around church. Kids’ sports and other activities would be scheduled on any day except Sunday. Professional games would be aired in the afternoons or evenings, allowing for family time during the day. Stores would either remain closed, or would open after 1:00 pm, allowing families time to be together. And those who chose to stay up/out late on Saturday nights would still drag themselves out of bed to go to church.
Perhaps, if we step back and look, maybe we can see the correlation between diminishing participation in faith practices and the increasing chaos in our culture and our nation.
As our nation is growing more and more chaotic, as problems of poverty and homelessness, family disintegration increases, drug culture and violence increase, we wring our hands and blame it on our politicians, the media, the schools, anyone we can – but reality is, it is not “them” out there, it is not the “they” making decisions who have allowed, or even caused, this to happen in our culture. We own the responsibility for the way things are.
God commanded that we remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, not just so we could spend some time with God, but so we could keep our focus on the things that are truly important in life: time with God, yes, but so much more.
When we spend an entire day each week focused on God and the way of faith, we find a new perspective on our day to day living that enables us to face the challenges and the problems with grace, with patience and hope. When we spend time each week sharing faith with our family and friends, we find our daily interactions with others start with grace and go up from there.
Adults complain “there aren’t any kids in church anymore.” When parents don’t make Sabbath a priority, when they don’t bring their kids to church, the kids don’t learn the importance of faith practice, and so when they grow up, and have kids of their own, they don’t see a reason to make Sunday a day of rest, of worship, of family. When kids DO come to church, are the adults welcoming and friendly, do the adults invite the kids to sit with them and model how to worship? How else will kids learn to worship, if we don’t teach them? How else will kids learn right from wrong if we don’t show them by our own way of living?
It’s easy to worry about things like attendance and money. It’s easy to point fingers and place the blame somewhere else. But scripture teaches us a better way: “4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:4-7).
Let’s put our thoughts, our time and our energy in worshipping the Lord, in studying the scripture, in living as children of God. And we will see God pouring out peace, pouring out blessing, pouring out grace not only upon us, but upon the nation in which we live.
See you in church!