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In today’s media-saturated America, everyone has an opinion. From Bill O’Reilly to Chris Matthews, Rush Limbaugh to Rachel Maddow – and everything in between – there is no shortage of viewpoints. But how many of those perspectives bring you back to a place of passionate, persistent prayer for the nation?
“Viewpoint” allows your Prayer Team’s talented writing team to express their opinions on the political, social and moral issues of the day. At times, you may not agree with all they have to say. But in the end, you will be energized to pray for America, with the prism of Scripture and a decidedly Godly direction as your guide. Plus, you can blog your comments to every article, have your say, and perhaps even receive a response back from the writer.
Read – then pray with an enlightened, more informed viewpoint for your nation and its leaders.
Empty Tomb, Empty Church?
Easter attendance at a record low
By Carol Hatcher
Some call them CEO Christians – that’s “Christmas Easter Only.” This important sounding group actually describes those who only attend a formal worship service on the two biggest Christian “holy-days” of the year.
Easter is said to lead even Christmas as the most attended service. While the December holiday celebrates Christ’s birth, the Springtime Easter service commemorates an event with arguably the greatest impact on any Christian – the resurrection of Christ. After Jesus’ death on a cross, He was placed in a tomb. Because He told the people He would come back to life, the Romans placed not only a large stone in front of the tomb but also guards to make sure no one came to steal the body. But no stone, no guard and certainly not death could even keep Him in the grave.
Matthew 28 describes the two Marys going to visit the tomb only to find Jesus missing. An angel there tells them, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen.” (Matthew 28:5-6)
God raised His only Son Jesus from the dead.
That bears repeating: God raised His only Son Jesus from the dead. The impact of that one nine-word phrase changes the lives of anyone who chooses to accept it.
It’s a pretty common topic of conversation in the church and among Christians. But is it so common that Christians fail to see the miracle of it all? Certainly if they did, they’d be flocking to churches to celebrate such an event.
Some of the bi-annual attendees cite tradition as their reason for breaking out their Sunday best. Others just feel led to attend on those special days. Thom Rainer, President and (actual) CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources said he wondered if “CEOs” were a myth of the church. He said, “We actually found that most who attend on Easter are fairly regular attendees. They just happened all to come together on the same day. On Easter, those who attend one, two, or three Sundays a month join those who attend nearly every Sunday.”
Myth or not, research from 2013 showed only 58 percent of Protestants, 57 percent of Catholics and 45 percent of nondenominational Christians planned on attending church on Easter. Will the trend continue this year? Only one in five Americans planned to attend church to celebrate Christ’s resurrection – including Christians.
Honestly, this trend doesn’t veer from the current wave of young people leaving the church. Another research study from Lifeway shows 70 percent will leave the faith in college, while a mere 35 percent will eventually return. Where does that leave the church? Somewhat empty.
Why aren’t people planning to attend Easter services this year? It’s because they aren’t regular attendees anyway. According to Barna’s 2014 tracking data, church attendance has fallen from 43 percent in 2004 to 36 percent today. As to the reasons why, Millennials say it’s hypocrisy, irrelevance and moral failure of its leaders.
Whatever happened to drawing close to God? “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew18:20) The apostle Paul spent his life church planting. From Ephesus to Smyrna to Sardis to Laodicea to Colossae, Paul gave a model for meeting together to learn, worship and serve. That blueprint is still used today for churches around the nation.
Unfortunately, the attitudes and attendance records often are a reflection of the hearts of the people. The bottom line is this – you need God. As a Christian, this information should spur you to draw closer to Him in hopes that your words and deeds would reflect Jesus in all you do. And in doing so, others would desire a relationship with Him, too.
So, don’t be discouraged by the high percentage of people not attending. Know that another 20 percent of people just haven’t made up their minds. That 20 percent may be your favorite check-out lady at the grocery store or perhaps your next-door neighbor. Take the time to invite someone to church. Fill the pews, and be encouraged by this:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) (emphasis added)
It’s time America turned back to God. Why not start this Easter?
Carol Hatcher is a former elementary school teacher turned writer, and is a regular contributor to the Vantage Point devotional series. This southern belle lives with her husband and three children in Buford, GA.
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