Recently, in varying circumstances and through various media, several of our members have expressed to me how important their family of faith at Parkway is to them. In particular, some of them mentioned how much they were looking forward to being in the services of the Christmas Season.

Each of these people feels a deep commitment to the life and ministries of Parkway. If you asked them about the significant entities in their life, their congregation would be high on each of their lists. I am sure they would all say that they consider themselves to be very active members of the Parkway family. The fact, however, is that most of them average attending services two, or at most three, times a month. This is the reality of modern church life. Not only are fewer people attending church, but those who do attend do so less often.

In another era I might have invested considerable time and energy in trying to convince people to up their game, encouraging more support of the institution that is Parkway. I would continue to do that if I thought it would do some good, and there may be some for whom that will still be appropriate, but most of us are as committed as we intend to be.

I get that. You lead busy lives. You are fortunate enough to be able to travel. You have far-flung connections to family and friends. Many of you are retired or have the flexibility to take time off for pleasurable pursuits. Though I might not always agree with some of the ways that people choose to spend their Sundays, I have to recognize that it is possible to feel committed to church life and yet not be present every week.

However, if congregational life is where a lot of our Christian growth takes place, then we need to be sure that when we are not present we are finding other ways to insert spiritual discipline into our lives. If you believe physical fitness is important, you may find that your greatest benefit is derived from going to a gym. But on days when you can’t (or decide not to) make it to the gym, calisthenics in the basement or a run around the block can help to keep you in shape. We need to find some spiritual parallels.

An important place to start — and this is true even if you are in the church building every time we open the doors — is with the study of the Bible. Most of the biblical knowledge that many Christians have today is second-hand. Someone else has told us what’s in there. We haven’t read it for ourselves. Start with the New Testament and read it through, from the Gospel of Matthew through the Book of Revelation. There will be some parts you don’t fully understand, and having a good commentary at hand will help, but read it at least once in an organized manner so you will at least know what’s in there. I believe the application to your daily life will almost literally jump out at you.

Also, work on your prayer life. If prayer is conversation with God it might seem silly to approach it as work, but habits neglected or never begun require real effort before they come naturally. Though countless books have been written on how to pray, I simply suggest that you take a stab at it. Start talking to God. Jesus promised that his Holy Spirit would intercede for us. You’ll get the hang of it soon enough.

And get some rest. Part of the point of a Sabbath is to take us out of our routine and get us refreshed for the week ahead. Being present in church reminds us of that, but even if we aren’t in the services we still need the rest. If your weekends are completely tied up following your kids from one game to another, or catching up on yard work and errands, or engaging in pleasurable pursuits that you enjoy but leave you tired out, you’re not going to be the example of a Christian that others need to see. Your relationships with God and others will suffer. Even the most regular attenders need to hear that.

The start of a New Year is a time for making resolutions. I could suggest that you make one to be more faithful in church attendance. That’s certainly a good one. If you’re not going to make that one, however, how about making a commitment to do those things on a regular basis that bring some spiritual discipline into your life. I’d love to see you in church more often, but Jesus would love to see you become a more disciplined and faithful follower.