Have you ever watched the pendulum on a grandfather clock? Maybe you’ve watched a plumb bob swing, or you created some other oscillating device. Back and forth it goes, swinging each time a little less unless there is a mechanism aiding the pendulum. There’s actually a great video on YouTube where a professor shows his class the nature of gravity when acting upon a pendulum. You can find that video here.
Often times the practices of society work like a pendulum. For a while, society behaves a certain way, then there is a moment of reaction and society shifts to behave in an opposite way.
Before the 1960s, the world was functioning in what is termed as the “modern” mindset, where the scientific method was king, and wars were fought, and society thought happiness could be achieved through rational thinking. Then, the 1960s happened. There was a general revelation that technology and science and logic could not create happiness and fulfillment in society, so a shift occurred. The western world moved into a frame of mind referred to as “postmodern”. It was, basically, a reaction to all things modern. In postmodernism, truths became relative, and one’s perspective determined one’s truth. Also in postmodernism, a person needed the spiritual/mystical to balance the physical, because it became evident that the physical realm is not all there is to this universe, and things in the metaphysical realm influence our reality.
For many people who had grown up modern, this postmodern shift was difficult to swallow. However, all they needed to do was wait. Now we are in yet another shift of culture, and the definition of this new shift is still being examined and explored. We are now in a post-postmodern culture. Not modern. Not postmodern. Somewhere else – likely a combination of both.
In the church, these culture swings happen regularly as well.
For a long time, the church functioned without the scriptures available to all, and she focused on living rightly and devotion to the Lord. Then, when the Bible became accessible to the masses, she swung to focus on knowledge and devotion to the Bible, even though she said the knowledge was to influence actions. Now there is a swing back to try to be more social even as we remain somewhat biblically literate.
There has also been a shift in church culture regarding attending weekly services. For a long time, it was thought that missing church on any given Sunday (unless you were ill) was tantamount to walking away from the faith. Not only did you attend every Sunday to maintain good standing in the faith, but you dressed the part to show your devotion (giving the best) to God.
As culture outside the church has shifted, understandings within the church has shifted, and the attitude toward church attendance has dramatically changed. I remember, when I was younger, how people would make the argument that one would not need church attendance to get to heaven. Even as a teen, I remember attempting to show them the holes in their arguments, using verses like Hebrews 10:25.
The pendulum has swung, and nowadays families treat church attendance as if it is significantly optional. If one person has the sniffles, the whole family stays home. If chores need to be done, attendance with the saints at the assembly is put on hold for more practical endeavors. It is quite the swing of the pendulum how the church perceives attendance at the assembly today.
One of the main problems with this new attitude is the generational consequences being seen. With a 20% retention rate of our young people within our churches, we are already seeing the results of raising kids with this church-optional attitude. When you do not show your kids the importance of the assembly, they will be less devoted than even you are.
Another result of this pendulum swing is being seen in our churches at large. Because attendance is down, volunteers are scarce, and money for ministries wanes. The church is stronger together (Ecclesiastes 4:12). She really does suffer when you are not dedicated to her.
Probably the greatest result of this pendulum swing, however, is seen in the people themselves. Because of a disconnection with the life of the church, the lifestyles of the church looks more like the world than ever. When we do not have continual encouragement and accountability and reminders – when we disconnect from the body – we die spiritually. This is a biblical fact (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
Do not sit back and watch the church suffer because the pendulum has swung. You have direct influence on the pendulum. We do not have to be so legalistic about the church as she was for a long time, but in our reaction to legalism, let us not throw out the baby with the bath water, so to speak. May we all renew our devotion, not only to the Lord, but to His church and her work in Him.