I haven’t conducted a survey but, over the years, I’ve heard many reasons why people don’t go to church; Here are three of them.
“I don’t like the vicar/this week’s preacher” … It’s quite natural that not everyone pleases us, but this shouldn’t be allowed to deter us from drawing near to God and His people. I knew a woman who, realising that she didn’t like the vicar, stopped attending church. As soon as a new vicar arrived, she was again seen there every week. She had missed a whole slice of parish life! The writer to the Hebrews encouraged his readers in “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Heb. 10:25). We should keep going to church despite the people we’ll meet there!
“I’m not good enough to go to church” … Some of us who were brought up on the Book of Common Prayer will remember the service beginning with the plea, ‘O Lord, open Thou our lips’. The words come from Psalm 51, and have been part of liturgy since before the Reformation. They remind us all that, of ourselves, none of us is worthy to come before God. But, during his earthly ministry, Jesus declared, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill … I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt. 9:12-13).
Isaiah expressed this unworthiness very concisely: “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). Fortunately we don’t have to suffer the remedy that he reported (see verses 6-7), but can claim the redemption won for us by Jesus on the Cross.
“I haven’t anything decent to wear.” … I blame the Victorians for the tradition of wearing one’s best clothes for church-going. Many working men would only have two sets of clothes, one that they wore every day for work and the other that was kept for church. If only they had read more closely the story of Samuel’s selection of David, the shepherd-boy-come-king! Samuel was told, “Don’t consider his appearance or his height, … people look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Many people are put off church by the thought of appearing inferior; I’m very glad that the church I attend welcomes all, whatever their appearance. I heard an excellent sermon on Good Friday from a minister wearing jeans and a rugby shirt.
If you want to worship in God’s house, don’t be put off by mere people and their misguided traditions!