Pause for thought
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I was struck by a recent Gallup Survey showing that in-person attendance at religious services was down by over five percent.

My first thought was that this must be yet another side effect of the COVID pandemic until I realized that the comparison was with post-pandemic numbers.

My next thought was that maybe the drop-off was because most of the in-church decline could be explained by virtual, on-line worship as so many congregations had moved to provide their Sunday services on streaming platforms. Unfortunately that does not prove to be the case. The same survey shows that the majority of attendance had shifted from on-line to in-person.

The unfortunate conclusion is that more and more people are foregoing corporate worship and claim to be substituting personal worship instead.

Now you’ll get no argument from me that the wonders of nature can move us to consider with awe the power and majesty of the Creator.

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.” Psalm 19:1 NLT

“The heavens proclaim his righteousness; every nation sees his glory.” Psalm 97:6 NLT

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” Romans 1:20 NLT

So the base-level scenario for true worship is just to look up or look out and be wowed by the awesomeness of your creator.

But God wants a more personal relationship than that. He wants to remove all the impediments that would get in the way of that relationship —

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. Isaiah 1:18 NLT

And, of course, through Jesus He makes it possible for each individual to be in a personal relationship with Him at any time and in any place or circumstance. What more could we need or want? The answer is that by itself, the personal relationship would be sufficient. But in typical God fashion, He wants us to have more than that! He provides a third level of worship and relationship with Him —

“But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 NLT

“…fellowship with each other” is the key here! This is the next level up in worship! This is where the gifts of the Spirit are demonstrated and combined to produce incredible displays of God’s glory in action! This is where the individual is strengthened and enhanced and validated as a child of God in the society in which we live! This is the Church!

When Paul was writing to the church at Ephesus giving instruction on christian living, he emphasized how important the assembly of believers (the “church”) was to Jesus —

“Husbands, love your wives. You must love them as Christ loved the church. He gave His life for it.” Ephesians 5:25 NLT

Jesus not only gave his life for each one of us as individuals, but for all believers in fellowship. If we neglect that fellowship we miss out on the ultimate level of blessing available to us as believers!

Corporate worship is yet another gift from God! The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us —

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25 NLT

So to those who say, “I can worship God in nature” or “I can worship God in my own home”, I would say both things are good and true, but you are missing out on some of the greatest blessings and gifts God wants to give you by not getting together with other believers and worshipping together.

I like what Theodore Roosevelt once said, “You may worship God anywhere, at any time, but the chances are that you will not do so unless you have first learned to worship Him somewhere in some particular place, at some particular time.”

Let’s give the Gallup surveyors a surprise next time.

See you in church?

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at

Friday February 23rd, 2024