By Brooke Holt
Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. The Collect, Proper 16, The Book of Common Prayer
According to a Gallup poll released in June 2023 U.S. church attendance continues to decline. In 2012, 44% of the population attended church, synagogue, or mosque services. That number began to decline and then was exacerbated by the pandemic. At this point, polls show about 30% of the population attends religious services. It makes you question why the steady decrease: fear, unbelief, busyness, lack of relevance, etc.
As a pastor’s wife, I have watched this trend play out with curiosity and deep sadness. I wonder why everything else has taken precedence over attending church. In talking to non-church attendees on the Pickleball court, I have come to understand a discouraging reality. People simply do not see the value of church community and worship. Unfortunately, the church does not look much different than the world to them. They perceive the church as a place of ongoing division, judgement, and hypocrisy.
A much better way and witness for the church exists – the way of unity. Just prior to his betrayal and arrest, Jesus prayed: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22-23). Jesus longed for his followers to know the joy of unity as he experienced it within the divine Trinity.
The Collect for worship today beseeches the Lord to grant mercy to his church and to lead them to unity. Notice the way to that unity – the Holy Spirit. Through his power working in the lives of Christians, each of us has the power to love, to forgive, and to enjoy the communion of the saints. When we allow the Holy Spirit to work in this way in us, God is glorified.
This prayer is critical for drawing people back to church. We desperately need the Holy Spirit’s transformation in the lives of Christians to draw us together, to recognize what unites us is much greater than what divides us, and to love one another with the love of Christ. Then the world will see Jesus in us. We can exemplify the way of Christ and not the way of the world.
This transformation begins with you. As you allow the Holy Spirit to do his holy work within you, you manifest the love, forgiveness, and unity of Christ’s church. Let that work begin today!
Consider how your life and participation in church reflect Jesus to the world then invite the Holy Spirit to continue his transformative work in your life. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a "gift" who will guide us, lead us, and empower us. Yet many believers don't experience the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. This unique Christian small group Bible study provides a space in which we can explore what it truly means to "walk in the Spirit" on a daily basis. The Spirit-Filled Life small group curriculum centers on a 6-part video teaching series examining the life-giving and creative work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Begin to experience the gift today!
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