All the members of the body, though they are many, are one body … and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13, NAS)
It’s not just you.
A survey from Barna revealed that 59 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have given up on church—meaning that seven out of 10 twenty-somethings are not attending weekly services. It is almost as if more than half of America woke up and suddenly realized that religion is voluntary.
The irony is, at least half of America is correct. Church attendance is voluntary.
Whereas religion for our ancestors in Europe was often “prescribed,” in America no government or human authority can ever force a person to wake up and worship. Even our parents, with all of their good-hearted intentions, eventually run out of persuasion. Freedom to decide for ourselves is a blessing. We are able to practice (or not practice) the religion of our choice. We can share our beliefs publicly. We have the ability to plant churches. We are safe from religious persecution. We have no chains, no punishments.
But freedom comes at a price.
Because church attendance can fluctuate so much, churches in America are suffering. Week to week, people may or may not attend, causing church leaders to sometimes succumb to temptations that leave them resembling politicians or showmen. They strive to be appealing, often burying the Gospel beneath rhetoric or performance. (It should come as no surprise that almost every church counts.) The “show” is not freedom’s fault, certainly, but it derives from one of the negative consequences of freedom—namely, the lack of unity.
From a spiritual perspective, churches are held together with the Spirit of God. But that togetherness does not come automatically. According to the apostle Paul, we are called to be one body, but that calling implies a certain amount of human responsibility. Unity cannot be assumed.
We, too, must change our perspective. Yes, we are voluntary attendees, but for the health of our churches, we must also view ourselves as an army—an army of volunteers who must seamlessly unite into one body. It is only when we move like one body, fighting like one army, that church leaders will be liberated, and only then will we experience the pure, unadulterated church that Paul described.
Dear Lord, please unite Your body under one mind. We have drifted from Your original intention for the Church. Show us how to be a united army fighting for Your kingdom.