If ever there was a time when every house should be a house of prayer, it is now… And yet, in this time of fearful peril, some who profess to be Christians have no family worship. They do not honor God in the home; they do not teach their children to love and fear Him.(Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 7, 42)
Ellen White penned the above words over a hundred years ago (in 1902), but how much truer they ring today! While the home was originally intended to be a safe haven, a quiet oasis from the chaos of the world, for many it is not. Instead of being a place where families can come together in peace and worship God together, the busyness of life whisks them away in multiple directions. Worship provides an opportunity to recover from the trials of the day and refocus on family and God. It is a time to not only praise Him for His goodness but learn more about who He is.
As we reported in an earlier blog, however, the 2013 Global Church Member Survey showed that many church members, around the world, do not regularly practice family worship. (see our blog on 2013 GCMS findings on family worship here). What is the situation now, after five years? Have initiatives like “Revival and Reformation,” which have helped lead to more church members studying their Bible daily, produced a similar positive result with family worship?
Unfortunately, there has been a decline in the number of church members engaging in family worship over the last five years. In the 2013GCMS, about one in six church members reported that they never had family worship, while 12% reported that they did so less than once a month. A little over a third of respondents reported that they had family worship daily or more than once a day, and under a quarter of them said that, while they didn’t have worship daily, they did it more than once a week
Five years later, the 2018 GCMS revealed that, again, over a third of respondents report that they have family worship daily or more than once a day. However, fewer church members reported that they have family worship more than once a week; and fewer, too, said they have it approximately weekly. Over one in five church members worldwide reported that they never worship together as families: an increase of about five percentage points in this category between 2013-2018. It is not only the high percentage (22%) that never have family worship that is concerning—it is also the trend. Bearing in mind the example of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, and Ellen White’s clear counsel, the trend is deeply disturbing!
There are other practices by which one may engage in worship, pray, and study but with the accountability of a group setting, in which one both provides and receives spiritual nourishment. Gatherings like prayer meetings, for example, give the larger church family an opportunity to come together during the week and push the “pause” button on their fast-paced lives and learn more about God’s power and presence. How do church members report attendance to these meetings? In the 2018 GCMS church members were asked how often they attended a prayer meeting over the course of a year (Q25.04). Around 38% of members reported that they attended such a meeting more than once a week or every week. Additionally, 17% of respondents attended prayer meeting almost every week in the last year. Unfortunately, 13% of members around the world said that they had only attended a prayer meeting once or twice, while a slightly larger number of them reported that they never attended prayer meeting during that one-year period.
In order to develop a closer relationship with someone, we must invest time and energy into that relationship. The same is true of our relationship with God while it is also true of our relationships with our families and fellow followers of Jesus Christ. Engaging in family worship and attending prayer meetings are two wonderful ways to enhance one’s connection to God, to know Him better, and to get a real experience of walking together with God through our lives.
If families are not taking time to do this together, especially teaching and modeling this for their children, one must ask who is discipling the next generation of Christians? What changes might you need to make in your own, personal, or family engagement in these activities? What can your local church do to revive church members’ interest in and meaning of prayer meetings? And what can it do to make every church member’s home “a house of prayer,” one in which parents not only “honor God” but also teach their children to love and fear Him?
For more data on both 2013 and 2018 GCMS read the following presentations by Dr. David Trim from the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research:
Annual Council 2013 Research Report, David Trim
2018 Annual Council – Global Church Member Survey Data Report | [Watch Video]
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.