I have discovered an interesting phenomenon about people and church attendance during my years here at CCO: There is a HUGE disconnect between what people say and what they do.
Did you know that Gallup Polls have been tracking American church attendance for about 75 years? Consistently about 40% of the population claims to have attended a church service in the previous week. (The actual question was: "Did you yourself happen to attend church or synagogue in the last seven days?") And 40% of those polled said yes. The problem is, 40% of the population is somewhere around 118 million people...and according to pastors, nothing like that is happening in our churches across America today. Not even close.
Honestly this doesn't surprise me. I recognized a long time ago that if someone went to church at least once in the past 5 years they will confidently tell others that they currently attend church.
It's not uncommon for me to receive a call from the hospital and to be told one of our "members" has been admitted. A hospital staffer will say to me, "We have 'so-and-so' here in the hospital and she wrote down Calvary Chapel as her home church." What is equally common is that that individual hasn't attended services for years! Yet in their minds, they are members in good standing.
Most of you know Calvary Chapel Ontario has no formal membership. We offer no classes and keep no official membership roster. That doesn't mean we don't have members--because we do! We simply consider those who attend regularly to be members. But the converse is also true...when someone stops attending, we cease to consider them members.
I think there's a downside to all the technological options we offer people these days. Someone can be subscribed to CalvaryMail, receiving regular updates and emails (or reading a blog) and even watch services from time to time over our webcast, and truly believe they are active members of our fellowship. But surely membership is more than occasionally reading an email, watching a service on the Internet or even popping in once a month.
Call me old fashioned but I believe, if they're able, people should be in church every week.