What is the likelihood you’ll be at church on Sunday? 50%? 75%?
Recently, I heard an experienced urban minister reflecting on the reality that in most urban contexts, among most young Christians — even reformed evangelicals — church attendance peaks at around 2-3 Sundays per month.
Before you judge, honestly evaluate your own attendance over the past little while. I say that because for most of these young people, if you were to ask them, they would indicate that they are very committed. In their own perception, they are more likely to be there than not, whether or not the facts bear that out. Many think they are more faithful than they are.
That’s been on my mind today because I’ve been studying about Jesus. Here’s what I read:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been raised, and he entered the synagogue as was his custom on the Sabbath day and he rose to read… (Luke 4.16)
Four little words stuck out to me. Did you catch them? ‘As was his custom.‘
If there are things we tend to not like as younger people, particularly younger evangelicals, it is commandments and customs. We don’t like to be told something is necessary. But if something is good, shouldn’t it be customary? If Jesus made it his custom to go and hear the reading and explanation of the law for the first 30 years of his life before beginning his ministry, shouldn’t that inform some of our customs?
I was further rebuked by this statement from Josephus:
‘He [Moses] appointed the Law to be the most excellent and necessary form of instruction, ordaining, not that it should be heard once for all or twice or on several occasions, but that every week men should desert their other occupations and assemble to listen to the Law and to obtain a thorough and accurate knowledge of it, a practice which all other legislators seem to have neglected’ (Ag. Ap. 2.17 §175).
If unbelieving Josephus could see the wisdom in making it a custom for God’s people to gather to ‘every week’ at the expense of ‘desert[ing] their other occupations’ to ‘obtain a thorough and accurate knowledge’ the law of Moses, doesn’t it seem like all the more important for believing Christians to gather together to obtain a thorough and accurate knowledge of the gospel as the fulfillment of these scriptures?
Of course, the notion that the custom of going to hear the word of God happens in the context of a weekly church gathering presumes that the custom of that church is to read and exposit the word of God. If that’s not the custom of your church, you should probably find another place to customarily attend.
So if we were to look at your life, what would we see? Would your biographer be able to write this? ‘And that Sunday, as was his custom, he was in church to hear the reading and expositing of the Scriptures.’
Customs start with single acts. Good customs start with single acts of conscious obedience. So … where will you be this Sunday?