The Quarter-Time Church Member: Five Observations
If your church is typical, over one-half of your members attend one out of four weeks or less.
I am convinced that the decreasing commitment of church members to their local churches is one of the greatest problems in our culture today. More than polarized politics. More than petty social media. More than the divisions related to a pandemic.
You see, healthy churches are positive forces in culture and communities. They serve and love others. They unite families. They communicate the gospel, where one finds true hope and peace.
But when church members begin to lessen their commitment to their churches, those congregations become weaker. They become unhealthy. And unhealthy churches are bad for the communities they serve and the culture in which they live.
How did we get here? How did we get to the point where nominal church commitment is no big deal? How did we come to accept quarter-time church members as normal behavior? Though we could expand significantly on these questions, let’s look at five key developments.
1. We fail to see that the local church is God’s plan A to do his mission on earth, and that he has no plan B. The New Testament, from Acts 2 to Revelation 3 is all about the local church. It is clear that God means for local congregations to be the focus of his ministry. When we minimize the local church, we minimize the work of God.
2. We embrace the false notion that commitment to a local church is legalistic. Try using that same argument with the family unit: “Oh, your strong commitment to your family is too legalistic.” Why do we use this legalism angle with the local church? I would rather my children and grandchildren see me at the church when the doors are open rather than treat my local congregation like a part-time civic club.
3. We have let culture dictate our schedules. If Christians would stop letting their kids play Sunday-morning sports, the leagues would soon get the message. Instead, on this matter and others, we let culture tell us what’s really important. In doing so, we are communicating to our children what is and what is not important.
4. We have accepted strawman arguments about gathering at our local church. Have you heard either of these two comments? “The church is not the building; it’s the people.” Or, “The church is about sending not attending.” Both of those comments are often used to suggest that the gathering of church members each week is not important. Tell that to the writer of Hebrews who said, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
5. We see church as a place to be served rather than to serve. Have you ever heard church members argue about their preferences? You probably think that’s a rhetorical question. Sure you’ve heard it. Preferences about the style of music in worship. About the order of worship. About the color of the carpet. About the time of service. The list could continue. If church membership is about getting perks like a country club membership, commitment to the congregation will inevitably wane.
These five observations alone could explain the phenomenon of the quarter-time church member. He or she is not really committed. He or she is really not making a difference.
To all of you who say you are connected to a local church: Are you really? Are you really gathering without excuses? Are you looking to serve rather than to be served? Are you willing to give up the trappings of culture to be a growing disciple in your church? Are you really so committed that you would put your church first, only after your Lord and your family?
Are you a quarter-time church member? If so, you are a part of the problem.
Be a part of the solution.