In a recent study by Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who say they “seldom” or “never” attend religious services (aside from weddings and funerals) has risen modestly in the past decade. Roughly three-in-ten U.S. adults (29%) now say they seldom or never attend worship services, up from 25% in 2003, according to aggregated data from Pew Research Center surveys. The share of people who say they attend services at least once a week has remained relatively steady; 37% say they attend at least weekly today, compared with 39% a decade ago.
Among religiously affiliated Americans who say that religion is at least somewhat important in their lives, but who attend worship services no more than a few times a year, 24% cite personal priorities – including 16% who say they are too busy – as reasons they do not attend more often. Another 24% mention practical difficulties, including work conflicts, health problems or transportation difficulties.
Nearly four-in-ten (37%) point to an issue directly related to religion or church itself. The most common religion-related responses include disagreements with the beliefs of the religion or their church leaders, or beliefs that attending worship services is not important. Meanwhile, almost one-in-ten (9%) do not attribute their lack of attendance at religious services to anything in particular.
In light of all these statistics let’s take a look at Hebrews 10:19-25.
19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
In Hebrews, Paul reminds us of the importance of church attendance. In his Epistles to the Corinthians, he compares the Church to the body of Christ. In this passage he expands on this theme as “the house of God,” made so through the blood of Jesus, which cleans the evil out of our lives, and makes us pure, so that our joining together becomes a holy communion of saints. We use the same word the early church did for this coming together, we call it “church.” It is the place where we learn the new and living way which Christ inaugurated. We learn to hold fast and not waver in confessing our faith to the world, we hear in the weekly preaching of the Word the faithfulness of God with his promises. It is the place where we can support and encourage each other, and it is the genesis of showing our love by doing good deeds.
Learning new ways of living? Cleaning the evil out of our lives and living purely? Confessing the faithful promises of God? Supporting and encouraging each other? Showing love and doing good deeds? This sounds like a job description for a disciple. The statistics bear out that not attending church, is the “habit of some,” a habit that statistics also confirm is growing, but if we want to be a disciple, this is one habit we shouldn’t Form. To be disciples, includes following Paul’s admonition, and not forsaking our own assembling together.