The Pew Research Center recently reported data about people’s reasons for regularly attending or not attending religious services.
For example, many of those not regularly attending say they stay home because they are not believers, while most of those attending say they go to become closer to God.
I was surprised that Pew did not even offer survey respondents who regularly attend religious services the response choices that I would give as my most important reasons for attending, namely, seeking and receiving the forgiveness of sins and thanking and praising God for that forgiveness.
In Luke 18:9-14, what is often called the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Jesus teaches about two people who go up to the temple to pray. The one who thanks God that he is not like other people does not go home righteous before God. The one who confesses his sin and pleads for God’s mercy does go home righteous before God.
Based on such Bible passages, Lutherans have always believed, taught, and confessed that the highest worship of the Gospel is to seek and receive the forgiveness of sins, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, Who was crucified on the cross for all people. Receiving such forgiveness brings forth our thanks and praise!
A large percentage of Pew respondents said they practice their faith in other ways, but the God of the Bible does not leave to people to decide how they will worship Him.
Disinterest by successive generations of people may seem poised to end the Church, but God promises that even the gates of hell do not prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18), and that He will always preserve a faithful remnant of believers (Zechariah 8).
If the topic “Why church?” interests you, I invite you to attend the Fifth Annual Symposium in Kilgore on Sunday, October 28, from 3-5 p.m. in the Devall Student Center Ballroom on the main campus of Kilgore College. There will be a presentation, a break with refreshments, and a panel discussion driven by audience questions. The event is free, and all are welcome!
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.