There is a phenomenon I’ve become acutely aware of: the sometimes-churchers.
As the demands and desires of modern life increase, it is – arguably – becoming harder for church to compete for our Sunday attendance.
The sporadic attendance of some church members has become more noticeable to me since returning to church after COVID lockdowns. I may be feeling their absence more keenly because I so longed for the fellowship of the body of Christ at times when we were unable to meet. Or it might well be that church attendance has dropped off since the start of the pandemic. Both are likely true.
My heightened awareness of the ‘holes in the pews’ is also a symptom of my longing to be nurtured by more mature Christians. As I attempt to connect with and serve the generation below me, I’m really feeling the need for older Christians to invest in nurturing me.
And so, on a Sunday morning, I’m particularly noticing the sometimes-ness of older Christians in my generation – Gen X – and the younger set of Baby Boomers. The regular pattern of attendees in our service seems to be lots of Millennials, a good smattering of younger Gen-Xers, then somewhat of a void before hitting the older Boomers and the ‘Silent Generation’. Not the best name for an older generation, I agree.
Now, I don’t want to be judgemental, and I fully acknowledge that my own spiritual life is far from perfect. I also recognise the pressures upon those in the ‘Sandwich Generation’, which I am just starting to tackle as my own parents age.
But I can’t help but feel disappointed when the people I hoped would spur me on in my Christian walk – those just ahead of me – are regularly missing in action. I often find myself weeping silent tears during the service for people who seem to have “forsaken their first love” in Christ (Revelation 2:4).
If I’m honest, this absenteeism also scares me. At a personal level, I don’t want to become lukewarm as I get older. And I don’t want to leave the ministry of our church to the faithful few, while letting others things crowd my time. But most especially, I don’t want my older brothers and sisters in Christ to miss out on the encouragement and strengthening of their faith that regular church attendance provides.
In the meantime, I’m trying to sow even more earnestly into the generations below me.
Every Sunday, the words of the controversial Tourism Australia ad featuring Lara Worthington (nee Bingle) ring in my ears: “Where the bloody hell are you?” So too do the chilling words of Revelation 3:16: “So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
I’m hoping that my perception is skewed or incorrect, or perhaps that this ‘phenomenon’ of missing Gen X-ers and Boomers is isolated to my church. I’m also praying that any real disconnection from the church among these generations (and others) is turned around, so that they become engaged every-weekers.
In the meantime, I’m trying to sow even more earnestly into the generations below me. I hope this not only breaks the cycle of church disconnection with their generation, but that it also keeps my eyes fixed on serving Jesus and his church in a full-heat way.
*This ‘Everyday Christian’ column was submitted anonymously.