Pew Research found one-in-five Americans are too busy to go to church. Busy work schedules or soccer practice is a higher priority for a growing number of people. That's not surprising to me because, in America, we strangely envy a person who has a lot going on. It's a desirable thing to be busy. "How are you doing?" "Good, but busy." is an acceptable, and admirable response.
What’s most insightful about this study though is, for the first time ever, there is solid evidence to show that more and more Americans view the church as merely optional.
Personally, I can geek out like crazy over history so you can understand why this might excite me. For the past almost two thousand years of history, the church was not optional. It was a fundamental part of daily life. The church bells dictated daily activities, and the church calendar governed the yearly festivities.
That's just not the case anymore. If anything dictates our daily schedules, it's Facebook. If anything governs our yearly festivities, it's the NFL's short, but highly anticipated season. Or it's Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor, and whatever Netflix series is currently trending and everyone is tweeting about #rightnow. That's life today.
We always knew it was a voluntary society to some degree in the modern era, but now we have proof that Americans agree. People are simply too busy for Jesus. Okay, maybe some would want to nuance this a bit and say: “I’m not too busy for Jesus, I’m just too busy to attend church services. Besides, I can have Jesus without the church. He is with me at the mall, he is with me on the couch, he walks with me on the beach, he is with me wherever I go.”
If we’re honest, though, we both know that’s not true. Jesus is not an accessory that we can carry around in our pockets—like a watch or purse or pocketknife or a piece of candy. If we have no time to sit down long enough for Jesus to wash our feet, then we have no Jesus. Sitting down and allowing for Jesus to meet with us is what we need—both for the sake of our busy bodies and for the vitality of our souls.
We need to sit down with Jesus. If you're reading this, please consider coming back or coming to church on Sunday morning. The dishes, laundry, job, event, promotion, ballgame, or movie can wait and will still be there when we’re all dead. Salvation can’t wait. The time is here, the time is now.
Sit at the feet of Jesus, yes at church—through the preaching—through the bread and the wine—through the prayers—through fellowship with God's sinful, but dubbed saintly people. This is where we meet with Jesus first. After that, he will go where we go, but not before.
This Pew study is interesting to me because it makes a bold statement about the real problem here. Belief—doctrinal statements—confessions—this is not the primary motivator for this surge in people dipping out of church services. People claim to still believe these things, at least on paper.
The reason for skipping out is busy. People are crazy busy.
And what this study tells us, more blatantly than ever, is that we don’t think we need Jesus, or his church, or his people, or anything. We’re good enough on our own, thank you. We have convinced ourselves that we are capable and able and that our self-improvement programs and googling will be sufficient enough to save us.
The fact of the matter, though, is that this will never—not in a million years, not even in a fictional place like purgatory—be good enough. Ever. We need to stop and sit before Jesus.
Jesus calls and comforts us with this foreign word, and it's a kind of word that stops us in our tracks. It's the kind of news that makes us slow down—event halt—where we find ourselves sitting with him at his feet:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Those are great words to pause on.
Those are words I can readily slow down for.
These are words that tell me it's okay to stop.
Just then, right here in these calming words, is exactly where I begin to move again.
I begin to truly live. I have feet.