This week I was reading about Tearfund’s research saying that church attendance is going up,
‘Our understanding is that more people are attending now than before, even if that is only a couple of times a year rather than every week. This might mean going to church at one of the high points in their family’s year, such as Christmas or Easter, or attending Sunday services or midweek events.
I’ll be honest, I’m not buying it. Honestly, if going to church was a high point for a family they would be back week after week, not just for a religious festival on a long weekend.
They also draw the conclusion that,
‘This is of course immensely encouraging, because it shows that people are associating church and a belief in God with hope and joy, and a positive way to spend their time.’
How do you get that out of the figures? I went to church as a young boy because I had to, not because I was hopeful or especially joyful about the event. Even today I can go into a church service full of hope and joy only to find it dashed on the rocks of disappointment as the organ cranks up for the first hymn at the same time as sucking any level of praise out of my soul with some mournful tune.
I wasn’t going to say anything about this until I read Cranmer’s recent blog post about Rev’d Vincent Nichols attack on Easter Sunday football.
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols has decided to attack the heads of the Premier League and Setanta Sports for showing ‘disdain’ for the religious traditions of the United Kingdom, for disregarding the importance of Easter Sunday. And he criticises them for worshipping Mammon (profane ‘commercial considerations’) instead of honouring the sacred.
You see churches aren’t competing against each other for bums on seats. They are fighting a spiritual battle for hearts and minds in a world where more joy, emotion and feeling are shown in 90 minutes of a football game than pour out of most pulpits on any given Sunday.
This weekend we remember the passion, love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God’s very own son put to death for people as ordinary as you and me. And yet, I somehow suspect that 22 men will show more passion and energy in the quest to get three points than most pastors, vicars and ministers will show over this single event that changed the world.
If you’re preaching this weekend, how about treating the minutes you have been given to speak as the chance to reflect some of that passion that was shown for you on the first Easter Sunday? How about preaching as though promotion or relegation from glory depended on it?
Or, if you’re going to warm the pew of your local church building, how about taking the attitude of a football fan with you? That you’re involved in what takes place and not just an onlooker, that your cheers, songs, chants and cries are heard by God and he responds? As though the result of your time spent in church, with that crowd of people, actually makes a difference to your soul?
Happy Easter everyone.
If you don’t know the story behind Easter and why Christian’s celebrate this time of year, you can read it online here