Was reminded this morning of the old saying that goes something like this: "Most of life is about showing up."
We frequently mean that in a mental or emotional sense, as in: "I was there but mentally checked out;" or "I was emotionally unavailable." I remember hearing this most recently in the case of voting - encouraging younger voters to 'show up' in the political process by voting
But there is the basic sense that we tend to pass over and that is physically being there. "Incarnationally present," to sound technical. You can't even get to "mentally in attendance" if you are not physically there! By the way, no points if you counter with: "But what if I am listening to a conference call or webinar or ..." That's not the point.
So where am I going with this? Next time you elect to not attend church, realize that you are choosing to not "show up." Then tell me, with a straight face, about how much you love your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Tell me about your commitment to the church as the family of God. Convince me of your engagement with the purposes of Jesus in the world. You have not shown up physically - it is Highly Improbable that you are showing up mentally, emotionally, or volitionally. Yep, most of your life as a Christian starts by showing up at your local church.
In the book of Hebrews we read "Let us not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (Heb. 10:25). Sure, some Christians do treat the meeting-together pretty casually - but that is not the way it is supposed to be. It is an appropriate response to the gospel: now that God has drawn near, we should draw together. And if we don't; well, the next few verses say that will not be good.
Oh, and another ByTheWay, why would you think that "family/friends are in town" is a legitimate excuse to not come to church? If they are believers, they should come and worship with you. If they are not, then this is your opportunity to have an evangelistic impact. Either they come with you and see what Christians do, or they do not come and see that you are committed to the cause and work of Jesus in this world - both of those outcomes have evangelistic impact. Remember that most evangelism is not done by the professionals, it's done by the pew-sitters. But - of course - if you're not in the pew in the first place, well ...
So if you do not go to church, the message to your visitors is pretty clear: "I don't value being with the people of God."
Let's explore that notion of valuing visiting family more than God's people. Look again at the words of Jesus: Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (Matt. 12:49-50) - so who is your true family? Or, He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice" (Luke 8:21) - who are your true relatives? Or, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26) - even using hyperbole, Jesus is making it clear: if some other loyalty is competing with your loyalty to God, you are not being a good disciple. Is there any doubt that Jesus well and truly loved his mother and siblings? No - of course not!
There are certain cultures within the world or sub-cultures within America that embrace the idolization of family. Remember that an idol does not have to completely replace the true God. If you place the idol along side of God, that 'implied equality' is still idolatry.
Back to church attendance - really, if our commitment to God is so weak that we struggle to do this very basic thing of giving one percent of our week to meeting with the local church, then we need to have a serious self-conversation about our devotion to Jesus.
"One percent" - where did I get that? A week is seven 24-hour days: (7*24=)168 hours. I assume a two hour commitment to a weekly service. Two divided by 168 is (2/168=) .0119, or a bit over one percent (1.19%).