I am a sucker for stats. Statistics are actually the biggest reason I like watching sports. But I think we are all suckers for stats. And I want to urge you to stop listening to stats. Listen to God’s Word. Pay no attention to stats. Pay attention to Christ.
Preachers use stats all the time to “wow” people: 80% of church kids fall away from the faith. 50% of Christian marriages end in divorce. [fill in the blank]% of evangelicals do not believe in eternal hell, the exclusivity of Christ, the inerrancy of the bible, etc. And no matter how many times you challenge Barna statistics, the most robust, Reformed, conservative, Bible-believing Christians will still say, “yeah, but…”
Look, I know that you can believe statistics and TOTALLY still believe God’s Word, but I just want to say that statistics are not helpful. At all. Yesterday, I heard this stat: 40% of Christians struggle with sexual addiction. The presenter’s conclusion: therefore, you need to address this with your church, AND, since these are all church-goers, clearly, the gospel is not enough to help sexual addicts.
Here are several reasons statistics are not helpful:
- how many people were actually surveyed, and how do you know that means the rest of the world is the same? Was it 100 people? 1000 people? 10,000 people (that would be impressive, but I wouldn’t believe you, and it still is only 10,000)? Did you survey anyone at my church? The church down the road? At the mall? In an email? Did everyone respond? What in the world does 40% mean!!!!!
- what does “Christian” mean to those who asked the question, and to those who answered the question?
- how many of these “Christians” go to a church, a healthy church (which leads to all kinds of issues regarding the spectrum of church health)?
- how do you know everyone is telling the truth on an issue that the “experts” say is so shameful?
- what do you mean by “addiction”?
- statistics do not have anything to do with the person coming to me for help
- every single “statistic” is a person, made in the image of God, yet made intricately unique by God. None have the same DNA, none have the same parents, teachers, friends, pastors, etc. growing up. None have watched the same movies, read the same books, or memorized the same verses. Even if two people got remotely close in any of these categories, they are still two different people with different brains and personalities and thoughts and emotions. Every person must be handled with individual, specific, loving, gospel-centered care. In this light, statistics are at best misleading (tends to a cookie-cutter approach to helping people)
- even if all statistics were true, if every “expert” out there was accurate in all their observations, if everything psychologists and psychiatrists and therapists and counselors and physicians and authors and professors said was true about the problems in the world, the gospel is still the answer for the person sitting in front of me.
Let us simply trust in Christ and His good news.
Churches should gather for corporate worship on Sundays, the Lord’s Day. And Christians should gather with their churches on the Lord’s Day. If you are on vacation, and not able to gather with your own church on the Lord’s Day, you should find a church to gather with and worship with on the Lord’s Day. We should do whatever it takes to worship with God’s people on the Lord’s Day. If this is not the direction of your life, you are disobeying God.
Is there any biblical warrant for this? Here is my best crack at it:
- Forsaking the Lord’s Day gathering is forsaking the assembly (Hebrews 10.25)- yes, Hebrews 10 applies to more than the Lord’s Day gathering, but not less. When does your church gather? The whole church, I mean. Is it not Sunday, the Lord’s Day? Don’t you want Christian unity? Christians forsaking the Lord’s Day assembly is more divisive than anything else I can think of.
- Forsaking the Lord’s Day gathering is disobedience to your leaders (Hebrews 13.17)- yes, Hebrews 13 applies to more than the Lord’s Day gathering, but not less. Ask any elder at your church, “do you want me to gather for worship on the Lord’s Day?” If they say “yes!” then obey your leaders, and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your soul. Let them do this with joy, and not groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
- Worship is the natural and appropriate response to the resurrection (Matthew 28.1-10)- Matthew specifically points out it was the day after the Sabbath, the first day of the week, that Jesus rose from the dead. The angel told the women that Jesus had risen, and to go tell the other disciples. As they went, Jesus met them on the way. As soon as they saw him, they “worshiped him.” Later when the Eleven saw him, they “worshiped him” (v16). Worship is natural, and appropriate, for a risen Messiah. When you wake up on Sundays, on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, what do you feel like doing? (if you say, “why not everyday?” I am not arguing against worship gatherings everyday; I am simply arguing FOR worship gatherings on the Lord’s Day)
- Worship is religious devotion (John 2.13-22)- First note that all the offerings and sacrifices of the OT are acts of worship. There were “religious” acts of devotion that Noah, Abraham, and Moses and Aaron performed before the LORD. Then read John 2 carefully. Jesus cleansed the temple because the Jews turned it into a “house of trade.” In John 2, Jesus did not show anger toward sinful trade, but in mixing the holy and the common. In other words, there was nothing inherently sinful about “selling oxen and sheep and pigeons”; it was sinful because they were doing it in the house of worship. Jesus wants to guard “worship.” Yes, worship is not only what we do on the Lord’s Day; yes, religious acts on Sundays can be done from rote memorization and your hearts can be far from him; yes, just because you show up on Sundays doesn’t make you a Christian…
…but those who love Jesus do respond to him with actual acts of devotion, from the heart, but with our lips and our hands. We do want to offer sacrifices of praise and offer up prayers that will be a pleasing aroma to Him. We do want our meditations to be pleasing in His sight. And we do want to submit to God’s chosen order of days– so whatever He says is the first day of the week should be the day we devote the week to Him.