Should we return to weekly faith services? – (part 2 UPDATED)

Should we return to weekly faith services?


Dear Readers,

This is the second part of my piece titled, “Should we return to weekly faith services.” In this article, which starts after the image of the empty pews, I conclude and summarize the points I make for the return to weekly services for all people of faith.

The world, and the USA, are filled with problems and issues (nothing new, there’s always been hard times but, the pace does seem to have quickened in recent years). Do you believe a turning back to God is in order? Speaking as a Roman Catholic, and looking at some quick stats, weekly Catholic Mass attendance in the 1950s was approximately 74%, today that has fallen to 22-25%! Similar numbers are found in non-Catholic churches. Is this massive drop in faith a healthy development? It is easy for a person to say they believe in God, yet do they place their proclaimed faith into practice, or is it simply a moniker many wear but never really pursue?

Please post comments in the box below, and subscribe to my email.
Follow me on Twitter:

Thanks for reading, and please share this work,

T.P. Johnson


I am convinced that the trend of decreasing attendance at weekly worship services is harmful to souls and damaging to our nation. It is important to recall some critical comments made by founders of this country:

John Adams in a speech to the military in 1798 warned his fellow countrymen stating, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams is a signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and our second President.

Benjamin Franklin, Signer of the Declaration of Independence “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”

“Whereas true religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness . . . it is hereby earnestly recommended to the several States to take the most effectual measures for the encouragement thereof.” Continental Congress, 1778

George Washington, General of the Revolutionary Army, president of the Constitutional Convention, First President of the United States of America, Father of our nation, “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society.” 

There exist hundreds of statements by the founders of the United States that make it unequivocally clear that only a religious and moral people can free people remain free (GO HERE).


I now return to the arguments for weekly worship services for all people of faith.

WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS?

Let us review the reasons (note: all faiths can create their own lists that should convince its followers) that we have discussed:

  • The change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant in Jesus’ Blood…
  • …to the change from worshipping God on the Sabbath, to worshipping God on the Lord’s Day,…
  • …to the change from the Old Covenant blessing of God’s Presence in the Holy of Holies to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for all people to receive in faith,…

Is it true that the reasons discussed to this point are still not enough to draw you back to regular weekly attendance at worship services? If that is the case, than what about attending for the sake of our kids?

As we have covered previously, parents (and especially fathers) have an enormous impact on the faith of their children. If parents neglect their responsibilities to God, it is likely that their children will follow their poor role model. When a father decides to stay home rather than attend faith services with his family, he is providing a behavioral model for his children. That is not a unique situation; it happens every week across the nation. It is not at all hard to see that parents frequently provide contradictory messages to their children. On the one hand, they tell their kids they must attend services; however, on the other hand, they refuse to participate. Their children will look at what they do, not say—they will follow their actions, not their hypocritical words. People need to decide whether handing down their faith to their children is important to them—if it is, they must show the way.

During the early years of growth, children see their fathers as protectors and as people of power and authority—it leaves a lasting impact on children when they regularly see their father kneeling in adoration or prayer to God (they come to understand that if their father is kneeling before the Lord, they should too).

If one believes in God, and follows Christ, then attending Mass (or Church services for non-Catholics) is a Biblically mandated practice that provides the attendees and their children many benefits—not least of which is improved grades in school for their children and an increased likelihood that their children will hold onto the faith when they become adults (GO HERE for research results regarding students grades in school via regular worship attendance).

If the researchers cited above are correct, then it is possible that our children will do better in school if they attend faith services each week. Couple that with the stability, discipline, and faith formation provided by participating on a regular basis, and it seems clear that we are taking a valuable developmental tool away from our children if we do not bring them each week. If you are a parent and reading this, ask yourself: do you strive to ensure your children get to sports practice, while ignoring their faith? Have sports and other worldly activities taken the place of regular worship?

TO HEAR THE WORD OF GOD

Let’s review the reasons (for attending services we have discussed so far:

The change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant in Jesus’ Blood…

  • …to the change from worshipping God on the Sabbath, to worshipping God on the Lord’s Day,…
  • …to the change from the Old Covenant blessing of God’s Presence in the Holy of Holies to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for all people to receive in faith,…
  • …and for the sake of our children…

Is it true that the reasons discussed to this point are still not enough to draw you back to regular attendance at Mass/Church? If that is the case, than what about attending services for the sake of enjoying time with like-minded people and for the sake of hearing the Word of God in scriptural readings?

People are social in nature and often gain substantial strength from gathering with other people to embolden their faith. Seeing other men and women in similar situations sitting next to us in church is a powerful means to connect with other people and a powerful tool for connecting to the Lord through sharing our faith with the community as a whole. Christ mandates us to: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,…” (cf. Matthew 28:18-20). How can we make disciples of all nations if we are not willing to join with our communities in worship every week?

Humans are not created to be alone. In the Genesis account, God stated that it is not good for man to be alone. By attending Mass or faith services we are entering a prayer life united to all those attending, and we are united to Christians and people of faith throughout the world—and, while these statements apply to Catholics and all Christians, the points also apply (in their own way) to people of every faith. If those who came before us did not share their faith, how then would we have come to know the Lord?

There is no doubt that we can, and should, study and learn the truths of scripture at home; however, by gathering together, and by listening to the Priest’s Homily or our Pastor’s Sermon, we are forcing our ears to take in words that we can only read at home. Our lives are often busy, and taking the time to read scripture at home is an activity that many people place way down the list of their priorities; however, as St. Jerome once said: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” By attending Mass or church services each week, we are guaranteed to digest at least some of the Holy Scriptures. The Catholic Church urges the faithful to read the Scriptures, and it uses St. Jerome’s statement above in paragraph #133 in the Catechism, as follows: The Church “forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.

During the early centuries of Christianity, people learned and grew in the faith by hearing the word of God at church and at worship gatherings. There were precious few personal copies of scripture then, and not until the invention of the printing press in AD 1440 did lay Christians have access to copies of the Bible. For more than thirteen centuries, followers learned by hearing, not by reading. Each person learns differently—some read books, some listen to lectures, some learn best by using visual aids, and when we go to church, we often receive all three.

All Christians should regularly study Scripture, and they should balance their reading each week by gathering together with other Christians where they will hear the Scriptures read, and where they will listen to a Homily or Sermon centering on the weekly readings. In the Catholic Church, during every Sunday liturgy, there are four readings from Scripture (OT, Responsorial Psalm, NT, and Gospel). During weekday Masses, there are three readings. Many of the prayers said at Mass are based on Scripture. The Mass itself is based on Scripture, which means that attending Mass is a Biblical function in nearly all ways. The Church follows a three-year cycle for its readings; if a Catholic were to attend Mass every day for three years, they would have heard a majority of passages from the Bible—and that is only at Mass, which can be increased significantly by self-study at home and by joining study parish groups and programs (again, all points made regarding the Catholic faith are important for all people of faith–each major religion has its own sacred texts and rituals).

If one wants to know Christ, they must study His Word and (for Catholics) also receive His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the Eucharist.

BECAUSE GOD AND THE CHURCH MANDATES ATTENDANCE?

Let’s review the major reasons for attending weekly services:

  • The change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant in Jesus’ Blood…
  • …to the change from worshipping God on the Sabbath, to worshipping God on the Lord’s Day,…
  • …to the change from the Old Covenant blessing of God’s Presence in the Holy of Holies to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for all people to receive in faith,…
  • …and for the sake of our children…
  • …and for the sake of gathering together with like-minded people.

Is it true that the reasons discussed to this point are still not enough to draw you back to regular attendance at Mass/Church? If that is the case, than what about attending because God and the Church mandates a weekly day of worship?

We know that God included the observance of the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments, and we are aware that Christians are not bound to the Law of Moses; however, the Commandments still hold value for all people. For Christians, the commandment to observe the Sabbath was changed to worshipping and gathering together on the Lord’s Day (Sunday). For Christians, the Lord’s Day replaces the Sabbath, yet at the same time at least partially fulfills the Sabbath requirement by making attendance mandatory on a weekly basis. The Church, having Divine origins, has received the power to make such pronouncements by Christ Himself:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” [Matthew 16:13-19 RSV-CE] 

Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [Matthew 18:18 RSV-CE]

For Catholics, the passages above are critical. In them, we see the establishment of Simon as the first Pope when Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter (meaning rock), and then Jesus proclaimed that He (Jesus) would build His Church upon the rock of Peter. Jesus then gave Peter the keys to the Kingdom and the power to bind and loose (later also given to the apostles in general). If you are not Catholic, you will likely see those passages in a different light, yet the overall point still applies to all people of faith – there are central tenets of every religion that followers are called or even mandated to hold.

Recall, also, the first part of these posts and the brief statement on the Sabbath. People of faith should recognize that God is loving and merciful, and He does not give us rules to bind us or control us—the Lord is trying to help us live better lives by following His rules (the Creator certainly knows what is best for His creatures). If you are a parent, you make binding rules for your children, and it is probable that your directions are not meant to be mean or hateful; instead, you are acting as a loving parent by teaching your kids the parameters and realities of life (likewise, God is not mean or hateful by handing down commandments; rather, He is trying to show us a path through life, while also offering a way back to Him).

The power to bind and loose means that Peter received the authority from Christ to make pronouncements within the Church and those decisions are approved or ratified by Heaven. The other apostles also received the power to bind and loose, as we see in the second passage. The office of Pope (Peter was the first) was handed down to his successors.

Receiving the keys means that the recipient received the authority of the person giving the keys (in this case Jesus gave Peter the keys—the Lord gave His authority to Peter in Jesus’ absence). Peter and his successors and the apostles and their successors, received the authority to decide what is permitted and what is forbidden by the Church and faith. The Pope and the Church hold the Christ-given authority to make binding decisions, and one of those decisions has been to shift our weekly worship to Sunday, which makes sense for many reasons, not least of which is that Sunday is the day we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord. Therefore, God has proclaimed a weekly day of rest and worship, and He extended His authority to the Church, and the Church moved the day for Christians to Sunday, which means we must attend Mass (or church services for non-Catholics) every Sunday and on Holy Days. As state above, this is not for God’s sake, it is for the good of our own souls, for our lives, and the lives of those around us. It is to our spiritual detriment not to listen to what God asks of us. Recall, also, that in truth the Church did not move the Sabbath to Sunday; rather, it moved required worship to Sunday. This is an important distinction since Christians celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection, which has always been seen as happening on the third day, Sunday. Therefore, Christians are called to celebrate the New Covenant completed when Christ died. Recall these passages:

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight. [Acts 20:7 TRSV-CE]

On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that contributions need not be made when I come. [1 Corinthians 16:2 RSV-CE]

The early Christians gathered together for worship on Sunday.

FOR OUR FAITH AND BECAUSE WE LOVE GOD?

Let’s review the major reasons for attending weekly services:

  • The change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant in Jesus’ Blood…
  • …to the change from worshipping God on the Sabbath, to worshipping God on the Lord’s Day,…
  • …to the change from the Old Covenant blessing of God’s Presence in the Holy of Holies to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for all people to receive in faith,…
  • …and for the sake of our children…
  • …and for the sake of gathering together with like-minded people.
  • …and because God and His Church mandates weekly faith attendance.

Is it true that the reasons discussed to this point are still not enough to draw you back to regular attendance at Mass/Church? If that is the case, than what about attending Mass for the sake of your faith and the love of God?

By developing personal discipline in our walk with Jesus, we draw closer to the Lord. Again, the Lord does not need us to be at church every Sunday; we need to be there. The Sabbath was made for man (man was not made for the Sabbath) and so is worship on Sunday. Likewise, worship of the Lord on Sundays is for our spiritual, moral and life benefit. Each time we gather at Mass and receive the Lord in the Eucharist, we receive Graces for our journey – and this (in different ways) applies to people of all faith.

For most people, attending regular attendance can seem to bear little impact on our lives in an immediate or current sense, yet perseverance is what leads to an increased faith. We receive spiritual fruit and benefits during attendance. Beyond the many gifts we receive, it is always spiritually healthy to recognize our weaknesses before God and to offer God our time as a display of our love and respect for Him—without ever considering what is in it for us. We are blessed with 168 hours of living every week, and God (along with His Church) asks for one of those hours to be spent in worship and that time spent is for our own good (this means God asks for 6/10ths of one-percent of a given week’s time – not so very much if one is honest). Can we not find enough love for God to give Him less than one-percent of our time in love and gratitude for all that He has does for us?

These points hold true when we are on vacation, or if we do not want to attend Mass or church for whatever reason. The obligation to attend Mass or church services every week (and for Catholics also on Holy Days) is not lifted because it’s inconvenient for us to attend. There are ways to find a Mass (or church) close to us that fits whatever scheduling circumstances we might have. Developing a discipline in our spiritual life provides fruit, and it is a sign of love for God that we develop discipline in how we worship Him. When we develop discipline in matters to do with God, that discipline often spills over into our regular lives. Be honest, when you set yourself to wake when the alarm chimes, and you do it, don’t you feel better for that small act? And, if you set out to become more fit, and lose some weight, don’t you feel better for having controlled your innate desires antipathy to exercise? Likewise, when we create discipline to worship God regularly, it feels good, and we experience personal growth for the effort. 

For Catholics, there are internet sites (GO HERE) that contain Mass, Confession, and Adoration times that can be used when we take trips for business or pleasure and non-Catholics can find similar ways to meet their weekly worship needs (as a personal aside, I have experienced amazing spiritual joy when I have gone to Mass when on vacation and I experienced amazing churches and extraordinary people–always a deep blessing to do so with my family). We should plan not to miss weekly Mass, or faith services, wherever we happen to be. Our souls will fill with Graces, and our families will reap the benefits of our efforts to stay close to the Lord. Furthermore, as we need food and water to sustain our bodies, our souls also require regular nourishment. We receive food for our souls when we receive the Lord in the Eucharist and when we hear His Word in Scripture. After all, we perform our daily work no matter whether we feel like it or not, and we’ll go to extraordinary measures to become physically fit; therefore, how can we do less for God and for our souls?When we do not feel like going to Mass/Church, and yet still go, we receive Graces, and we grow in personal discipline having fought laziness.

FOR THE SAKE OF OUR COUNTRY AND THE WORLD

 Let’s review the major reasons for attending weekly services:

  • The change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant in Jesus’ Blood…
  • …to the change from worshipping God on the Sabbath, to worshipping God on the Lord’s Day,…
  • …to the change from the Old Covenant blessing of God’s Presence in the Holy of Holies to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for all people to receive in faith,…
  • …and for the sake of our children…
  • …and for the sake of gathering together with like-minded people.
  • …and because God and His Church mandates weekly faith attendance…
  • …for our faith and because we love God.

Is it true that the reasons discussed to this point are still not enough to draw you back to regular attendance at Mass/Church? If that is the case, than what about attending for the sake of our country and the world?

As I covered early in this post, our founders expressed the opinion that without a moral and religious people, a nation and its government will not remain standing. In our culture, there are many distractions, and we have countless opportunities to ignore God and His weekly worship requirements; however, as I have attempted to show, weekly attendance is not for God’s benefit, it is to our advantage and health that we should attend. Extend this outward from that point and apply this to the United States as a corporate entity, and then to the entire world. Without a proper foundation (God) upon which to base our lives, the same becomes a reality for our nation (and any country) and that poor basis suddenly flows across the world. We become a rudderless and directionless people who no longer recognize right from wrong since each individual has their own definition.

Do not misunderstand these points—in no way am I claiming the United States is perfect. Yet, the Church is a hospital for sinners, and without God, there is no cure for our real problems, both spiritual and earthly temporal. If we desire health for ourselves, our families, our nation, and the world, then we must engage in the world, we must live our faith in all aspects of our lives and that includes attending religious services every week. There is only one path to authentic hope, peace, and happiness, and that comes from God!

FOR THE SAKE OF OUR OWN HAPPINESS AND PEACE OF MIND

Let’s review the major reasons for attending weekly services:

    • The change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant in Jesus’ Blood…
    • …to the change from worshipping God on the Sabbath, to worshipping God on the Lord’s Day,…
    • …to the change from the Old Covenant blessing of God’s Presence in the Holy of Holies to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for all people to receive in faith,…
    • …and for the sake of our children…
    • …and for the sake of gathering together with like-minded people…
    • …and because God and His Church mandates weekly faith attendance…
    • …for our faith and because we love God…
    • …for the sake of our country and the world.

Is it true that the reasons discussed to this point are still not enough to draw you back to regular attendance at Mass/Church? If that is the case, than what about attending Mass for the sake of our own happiness?

In a Gallup poll, it was discovered that people who attend church, synagogue, or mosque, frequently report having higher wellbeing, and they get an extra boost to their emotional state on Sundays – while the rest of the nation sees a decline in their mood (excerpted from here).

If you consider that study more carefully, it comes as no surprise. People of faith who attend services regularly tend to have a healthier outlook on life and on their futures. Individuals who study, pray and delve into the mysteries of God also tend to weather the storms of this life far better than those who do not—this is likely due to the truth that this life has always been filled with obvious pain and suffering and that people of faith can recognize that as the temporal reality of human existence. This is not to say that we are not to strive to lessen suffering or help when we see human pain—we are mandated by God to help those in pain; however, knowing the nature of human life allows people to not fall as low during the hard times, because they know one day this life will wash away and our lives will stretch across eternity. The Saints knew these many truths—they understood that life is tough and that God’s Promises to us regarding eternity creates hope in our lives, and especially in our futures. They believed it so deeply that they were moved to incredible acts–Saintly acts.

If you seek happiness—start attending faith services every week, pray and study, and pass it on to those you love. You will never feel regret for drawing closer to the Lord.

IN SUMMARY

Let’s review the major reasons for attending weekly services:

    • The change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant in Jesus’ Blood…
    • …to the change from worshipping God on the Sabbath, to worshipping God on the Lord’s Day,…
    • …to the change from the Old Covenant blessing of God’s Presence in the Holy of Holies to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for all people to receive in faith,…
    • …and for the sake of our children…
    • …and for the sake of gathering together with like-minded people.
    • …and because God and His Church mandates weekly faith attendance…
    • …for our faith and because we love God…
    • …for the sake of our country and the world…
    • …for the sake of our own happiness an peace of mind.

In the list above we see nine major reasons for returning to weekly faith services, yet within each, many additional points help us realize that regular attendance is the best choice for all people of faith. It leads to benefits for us as individuals, for those we love, for our country, and for the entire world. I hope these reasons entice you to consider regular attendance at faith services, if not for yourself, for those around you. 🙂

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Not only should we learn more about our faith, and not only should we read the Bible and read the early Church fathers and doctors (and the texts of the faiths we hold) we should also start attending Mass (weekly services) every week (and on Holy Days of Obligation for Catholics). The rest will fall into place over time. But be careful, you might find your faith growing, and then you might feel your soul on fire for the Lord. 🙂
      
My prayer is that more people will turn to God, and that through Him we will help transform the world. There is but one path to that transformation—God, and God alone.
        
Please leave comments so we might enter a robust conversation and in your comments, please submit others reasons for weekly attendance that I might have left out.
      
May God always bless you with His peace and love,
       
T.P. Johnson