Not Forsaking... Reverend Daniel England

Iknow, I know, New Year's Resolutions are useless, as every gym owner who gets us to sign up for a year is fully aware. I read one study that said that gym owners expect only about 18 percent of people who buy memberships to use them consistently. In fact, to be profitable, they need about ten times as many members as they can actually fit through their doors.

Of course, the last laugh for those who weaken in their resolve is, of course, on the would-be fit and in two ways. One, they are separated from their money they paid to be fit and second, um, they're not fit. "But I have other things to do," the slightly misshapen victim of his own thinking wails. "Important things. Besides sometimes I just don't feel like it. I go once in a while and that must count for something." Well, not much actually.

This little scenario is what runs through my mind every time people try to explain to me why they don't come to church. And you are going, "C'mon don't try to lay that guilt trip on me." Okay, whatever you say.

But friends, the church these days is getting weaker, and I'm not even talking about the inestimable harm evangelicals agree they are doing to their tradition (as the editor of Christianity Today, founded by Billy Graham, recently lamented in an editorial). Mainline churches like ours are also in trouble. Why? Basically, because fewer people are coming regularly and therefore are less involved in supporting programs and giving. It's like trying to run an army in which soldiers showing up is optional or a business when employees come to work when they want to.

"So I gotta be there every time the place is open?" No, just like you don't have to be at the gym every single day. But here's the thing. The core of any church is its worship. That is the one time and the one place, despite all the diversity of what we do, when we anchor our lives and our identity together as a community of faith.

We're not the first Christians to run into this problem. The writer to the Hebrews, who was probably Pricilla (of Pricilla and Aquila), wrote this in the first century, before A.D. 70, "...let us stir up one another to love and good works, not forsaking to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another..."

One of the greatest commitments you make for your spiritual fitness is to be in church on Sunday morning, worshiping God, joining with other Christians, being exercised in your spirit by word and music and conversation and challenge and inspiration. Do more than that, by all means, if you choose and as God leads you. But this, at least.

Of course, the easiest way to see that you go to the gym say, three days a week is to decide once: "With rare exception, I am going to the gym on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday." Done. We do this all the time. Do you debate and hem and haw about whether to take a shower? (Phew, I hope not). Or to feed the dog or go to work?

Look, it makes a difference whether you come to church or not, if not to you every time, then to others with whom the bonds of friendship and affection, and prayer are strengthened whenever you connect.

"Not forsaking to meet together..." It is fitness for your soul.