We want to relax.
Life is stressful. Our jobs stress us out. Our kids stress us out. Even our smartphones, which promise entertainment, relationship, knowledge, connection, and increased spirituality actually just stresses us out.
The constant pressure to do more, to see more, and to be more drives us from the moment we open our eyes until the moment fall asleep…after checking our email one last time. Only thirty-four percent of us always busy Americans use all of our paid vacation days according to a recent study by the Associated Press NORC Center for Public Affairs Research (Trying saying that 5 times fast- yikes). And eighty percent of us have experienced burnout.
Though we are reticent to get away, most of us cannot wait to get away from the busyness our life. The Associated Press discovered that sixty-six percent of us would happily have a more mundane vacation if that meant extra days away from the office and home. Most of them, fifty-six percent, do not believe their home can provide them with a real vacation. Thus, they long to travel.
What do we want to do with that time away? Most of us just want to relax. Seventy-three percent of Americans simply want to do nothing while on vacation. Americans are searching for a relaxing space full of peace and quiet.
When people go on vacation, they do not just leave work behind. They often leave church behind. Almost every church consulting firm, pastoral support group, and para-church team publishes a book or blog designed to help churches maintain their attendance and giving numbers during the dry summer months.
I think the fact that people disappear from our churches over the summer months may reflect more on our local church than on the people seeking relaxation. I believe that many people are desperate to get away from their established church because their church has become just another program. They see church as an event to attend, a place to occasionally serve, and an institution to support. “It is simply what good people do.”
Church for many people has ceased to be life changing. Church is no longer the place in which Americans encounter God through preaching, singing, prayer, and fellowship.
I fear that many Christians are ok with taking a vacation from church because church is not a place of relaxation. The see it as a place of legalistic work that helps them pursue their version of moralism.
To undo this perception, churches must begin to focus less people and more on Christ. Instead of preaching on how we overcome sorrow and grief, we need to preach on how God has conquered sin. Instead of making sure we have connected with people by ministering to their felt need or be entertain them through a good story, we need to proclaim the glory of God. Nothing beats that story.
If people come to our church and witness only things that can be down in human power, they will see church as just one more event. But if people come to church and encounter the living God, seeing their soul and other souls supernaturally changed by God, they will happily stay involved in church through the summer.
Churches should be always be a place where all can, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” –Psalm 46:10.
Even if God is in our church, I suspect people will still go on vacations. Time away from work and usually responsibilities can be refreshing to our souls. Christ ducked away on many occasions to pray and be with his heavenly Father. Vacations are not wrong or sinful. Vacations are good blessings from above.
But, people should never need to take vacation from church. The rooms under our steeples should be the very place where the weary soul can find rest in the arms of God. If God is in our church, brothers and sisters in Christ will not want to stay away for long.
Is your church a spiritual getaway?