One of the hardest challenges I faced when I became the pastor of a church while in school was the sheer regularity of preaching. Working on a few sermons over the course of a semester while taking classes in preaching was enjoyable, but being under the gun to have something to say each Sunday was terrifying.

What I soon discovered, however, was that, if you select a key scriptural text, study it, and let it speak to you, you don’t run out of messages that people need to hear. The only real requirement is the discipline to keep coming back to the word week after week and, as one of my professors used to say, “apply all of yourself to the text and all of the text to yourself.”

What occurs over time — but only over time — is that you begin to get a sense of the depth and richness of the biblical message, as well as the many areas of one’s life that need to be shaped (and improved) by the application of God’s word to everyday experience. In the past forty plus years I’ve never had a Sunday when I didn’t feel that there was a sermon that needed to be preached.

A similar experience applies in the life of the Christian layperson. Sporadic attendance in worship, like the preparation of a few sermons, has some benefit, but cannot compare to the discipline of attending week after week, being exposed to all the various themes and truths of the Bible, and seeking, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, to apply those truths to daily life. One aspect of growth as a disciple is the sheer regularity of practice.

There are plenty of recent studies that validate the observation that not only are fewer people attending church, but those who are attending are doing so less frequently. I didn’t need a study to tell me that.

An argument can be made (I’m sure it is made in people’s minds frequently) that there are other, valuable ways to spend a Sunday. There are certainly plenty of other activities that compete for our attention. But if growth in faith and knowledge and in the cultivation of the fruits of the Spirit are your goals, as they should be for all disciples, then the simple discipline of showing up is key. I am singularly uninterested in the perpetuation of an institution, even one as significant as a local church, for its own sake. However, I am vitally interested in helping to grow mature disciples of Christ who can make a difference in their world. Join me in that work — by showing up.