Today’s message of January 22, 2017 from Melvin Gaines:
The previous U.S. Presidential election also provided many lessons about another type of information gathering much like a survey…polling. For several weeks during the campaign, Donald Trump was losing big to Hillary Clinton (anywhere from 10 to 25 percentage points), but the end result of the election proved that the narrow margins in many key battleground states was much closer than the polling, and the reason for this is that many people voted in this election that (1) never voted in a presidential election in a long time, if ever, and (2) they would never, if asked to take a poll, participate in one to show any preference. As a result, many previously trusted pollsters lost public trust, after the election, due to accusations that their results were far from accurate. Today’s methodology of poll sampling (telephone polling) is becoming more and more obsolete.
Here’s more polling data to consider. Gallup put out a poll in 2014 that covered religious service (church) attendance by state. In general, with a very solid sampling nationwide of over 177,000 adults and a confidence level of 95%, the statistics reported that of those surveyed, on average about 34% of those surveyed attended church at least once a week, and about 21% attended services ever other week or at least once a month.  On the surface, this isn’t great but it sounds like it’s OK, until you take into account a phenomenon within polling referred to as “the halo effect.” The halo effect is the difference or discrepancy between what you tell a pollster (which often involves leaving a positive impression of yourself) versus what you actually do. What was found in a gathering of statistical data by two different groups covering church attendance and trends was that actual number of attendees each week is closer to 17.7 percent of the population.  Even Gallup Poll Editor in Chief Frank Newport had to acknowledge that poll numbers can be skewed by “the halo effect.” Newport said that many people will say they regularly attend church when they really don’t attend every week; in fact, many people will stay home from church due to illness or readily sleep in. Of those who claim to go to church on a regular basis, some may show up less than 12 times a year, and pastors will often acknowledge that their inactive church membership is anywhere from 40 to 60 percent.
We live in a different day and time, and there are few places in the United States where churches are growing. They’re shrinking, and some are rapidly declining in attendance.
So what’s going on here? It would be very easy to point the finger at the church itself for the decline in church attendance (some criticism is warranted); however, we also have to acknowledge that churches come in different sizes, shapes and colors. There is no such thing as a perfect fit for a church. If one doesn’t work, there should be an inclination to try another one that can be a better fit. Perhaps the lack of church attendance is not all about the church, or the pastor or leadership, or even other members. Perhaps the lack of church attendance lies solely with the person.
No one will deny that going to church every Sunday requires a regular routine, but wait a minute…maybe that’s not quite right. If you love the Lord and recognize how much He has done for you, going to church is more than just a routine or even a duty…it would be your priority and even something to look forward to every Sunday!
When we look at what the purpose of a church is, we begin to understand where church attendance should be more of a priority.
Matthew 18:20 ESV
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
Acts 2:41-42 HCSB
So those who accepted his (Peter’s) message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.
Here in this verse is the takeaway that I hope you can see where some individuals will determine that church is either more or less important. Peter, in speaking to the crowd, told them to repent and ask Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin (verse 38), and that they would be born again. The people who believed his message trusted him and accepted his message. You will not devote yourself, or make yourself available for teaching or fellowship with others unless you begin to trust the message. It is faith in the message that leads to acceptance.
Romans 10:17 ESV
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Acts 16:31 declares that you are to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
Romans 10:9-10, 13 HCSB
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Trust is the first step that leads to faith. Faith means you accept and believe the message of Jesus Christ, and, as a result, you begin to see the value and benefits of church fellowship. This is where you can associate the well-known expression, “Take a step of faith.”
The sad part of this is that people don’t readily trust what they are told. People have grown to be skeptical of others. This skepticism, however, falls back on the listener.
How many people will sit in church for a period of days, weeks, months and years, and hear all kinds of information, and yet make the conscious decision to not believe? It is a lack of trust in the Word, and is ultimately just like not being in church at all. A lack of trust is crippling, and for some, it can lead to spiritual death. Church is not just fellowship with other people, or friends or other believers, it is also about fellowship with God.
1 John 1:5-10 HCSB
Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
If you don’t get anything else out of this, please, please don’t lie to yourself about your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Psalm 139:1-3 HCSB
LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up;
You understand my thoughts from far away.
You observe my travels and my rest;
You are aware of all my ways.
The halo effect may also be an issue when it comes to a person’s honesty when it comes to matters of faith. Very few people who you see in a church will share that they don’t have this faith thing all together. It’s very personal. It’s a private matter. While it is personal, and it is a private matter, but only God knows where you are with your faith, and He is the ultimate litmus test.
Jeremiah 17:10 HCSB
I, Yahweh, examine the mind,
I test the heart
to give to each according to his way,
according to what his actions deserve.
If you think you’ve got it all together in your relationship with Jesus Christ, you probably don’t.
Proverbs 16:1-2 HCSB
The reflections of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All a man’s ways seem right to him,
but the Lord evaluates the motives.
We are reminded that we have nothing in salvation without the grace of God. Salvation is an undeserved gift from God through the mediator, Jesus Christ. This alone is a reason to be grateful to God and give Him due praise and worship.
Ephesians 2:4-10 HCSB
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
We worship God publicly through our daily actions and activity, but we learn about worship within a church fellowship. A bible-teaching church gives instruction and teaches you how to develop your own study habits to learn more about Christ.
We live in a different day and time, but that doesn’t mean that church is less important today. If anything, it is much more important because it is a place where you can develop your faith and build upon a healthy and intimate relationship in Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 10:24-25 HCSB
And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Colossians 3:12-17 HCSB
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
When it comes to your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, do you rely upon the halo effect, or will you humble yourself before God, trust in Him and allow yourself to be teachable and live in the richness of His presence?
True faith in Jesus Christ begins by just believing in Him. All He desires for you is to “come and you will see” (John 1:39).
Copyright © Melvin Gaines