In a recent Sunday sermon I mentioned that the churchgoing habit is an easy one to break.
If I had had more time I might have talked about how it happens, how you take a Sunday off and realize there are all those other things you could be doing during that time, all those other things other people actually are doing during that time: sleeping in, going to the beach, going to the mountains, having a second cup of coffee, reading the New York Times, mowing the lawn, lounging by the pool, or doing nothing much at all.
It's a nice change of pace, but I'm guessing it could quickly become the new normal. And it might take weeks, or even months, to become aware that something was missing, something you used to get at church that you aren't getting anymore. And on your best days you might acknowledge that what you were missing is pretty important: the fellowship of other believers, the robust singing of hymns, the prayers of the people, the Word of the Lord, and the faithful preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one that consistently challenges the false gospels of appearance, achievement, and affluence.
So I've come up with a strategy that will make the churchgoing habit harder to break.
It came to me when I was talking to a couple of guys on their cigarette break. I was just standing there, and one of them offered me a cigarette. "No, thanks," I said. "I never have developed that habit." "Lucky you!" he said. "I've been trying to break it for years. Cigarettes are expensive!" (he didn't mention that they can also kill you). It struck me then that people will pay good money for something that has the potential to kill them simply because cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive.
And that's when I came up with my new strategy.
Let's just pump some nicotine into the air conditioning system at church this summer, let it waft over the pews along with all that cool air as people sit there and listen to the sermon. They won't even know they're inhaling it, but somewhere around Monday or Tuesday of that week they're going to say, "Man, I've got to get back to church!" They won't even realize they're doing it, but as they keep coming to church and keep inhaling that nicotine the addiction will begin to grow stronger and stronger, until they start saying things like:
"I'm dying for a sermon."
"I sure could use a good hymn right about now, couldn't you?"
"I haven't had communion in, like, forever!"
"Will Sunday ever get here?"
I know there are probably laws against adding nicotine to the air conditioning system, but the churchgoing habit has gotten a little too easy to break.
And desperate times call for desperate measures.