As we would say in the south, “I was raised right!” My family attended church off and on. Being a navy family, we moved frequently so I went to quite a few schools and churches. I remember being in a few Christmas programs, singing in a children’s choir. I remember thinking worship was boring and only sissies attended church. My dad was no longer attending so why should I?

In college, I could do what I wanted which did not include attending church. There were a couple of years in Richmond I was active, but after moving, I drifted away again. My excuse? “I work six days a week in a suit and tie. Why dress up on my only day off?”

Obviously, something happened to change my life significantly but for a while, I was among the many raised in church, exposed to the teachings of Jesus but chose to stay away. “I believed in God but didn’t feel any need to be in church.”

What changed me was “despite my outward successful appearances” there was a growing dissatisfaction with my current life and a question that haunted my conscious and unconscious thoughts: “Is this it? Is this all there is?” What also changed me was the growing realization that I needed to be in church on Sunday to get through the stress and strain of the other six days.

After becoming a pastor, I found this past experience gave me a deeper understanding of why others struggled not only with attending church but in their relationship with God.

Today, people who regularly attend church in America are in the minority. Now, as COVID-19 seems to be more and more in our rear-view mirror. I wonder if people’s attitudes about God and church have been impacted? All my instincts say yes. People sense a greater need for God but there are still a lot of prejudices and questions when it comes to being part of a church.

In a recent study, 5,000 Americans were asked a series of questions on why they did or did not attend religious services. Surprisingly, many of those questioned said: “religion is important.” The #1 reason given was to become closer to God.

Those who do not attend regularly also have reasons. Of the reasons given only one group of 28% says they are unbelievers. To me, that means 72% are believers but not attenders who say they are serious about what they believe but do not feel comfortable in a local church.

The last paragraph of the article: “American pastors spend endless amounts of time trying to cater to religious tastes: Coffee bars. Hip young pastors. Mission trips to exotic locales. But this study suggests there is a group of believers who seem likely to go to religious services, if someone could help get them there and welcome them when they arrive.”

Why are we not helping and inviting more people to join us in church?

When you invite someone to church, you are helping them become closer to God, strengthening their moral foundation, enabling them to become a better person, and receiving comfort as well as becoming part of an encouraging faith community.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

God loves us. He sacrificed His Son so that we have a path to follow and a companion to guide us through the twists and turns, bumps and bruises that are a part of our lives on earth.

Picture a lake during winter. A wooden dock stretches out to a thin shell of ice on the surrounding water. Over the whole scene lies a beautiful blanket of freshly fallen snow. A young man walks out onto the dock reflecting on those lazy summer days of fishing and boating. His sister shouts from the shoreline. Startled, he loses his balance on the slippery dock and crashes into the icy water. The quiet serenity of the scene has suddenly been replaced by icy reality.

In many ways, this describes what happens to us before we recognize our need for help, our need for others and our need for God. Everything is fine for a while, feet solidly planted on our own independence. Then something happens. It could be personal, or it could be something bigger like a pandemic. We lose our footing, and we go crashing into the pond. That is when we discover that we cannot be fully alive and navigate the slippery ice ahead of us without God.

As we look past the pandemic, we cannot go back to the way we were. But the question is: What does God expect of us? I do not know the complete answer yet, but I do know God has big plans for the church and I want to be a part of those plans. I pray the same for you.

Looking back on my life, I discovered so many people along the way who showed me what God’s love is all about. If I tried to list them all, the names would fill several pages with those who prayed for me, witnessed their faith, provided desperately needed advice or much needed help.

I pray that I can do the same for others. I pray the same for you. No easy task but that is why we need God and go to church.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)