I have been thinking a lot about habits. In yesterday's paper, there was a review of a beauty product which 'guaranteed results if used daily for 8 weeks'. The reviewer ended by saying 'Does it work? I will tell you in 49 days' By 12th July, I imagine most of us will ceased to care - that is assuming the writer remembered to apply the product diligently each day. In many of the articles I have read about "Organising your home and decluttering" [and believe me, I have literally dozens of these articles stashed away, which rather defeats the object] they tell you that "It takes 21 days to make a habit". Apparently research has shown that if you do something every day for 3 weeks, it becomes a habit and after that it is easy to maintain.
Is this true? When Bob was in London on Sabbatical, I got up every day and went on the rowing machine before breakfast, and again in the evening. But he was only away 19 days - then a holiday, and Easter and an operation got in the way and I haven't rowed since!
But other habits are easy to maintain - cleaning my teeth for instance, I cannot get through a day without doing that a few times. And daily Bible reading - admittedly some days I spend longer doing it than others, but if I miss a day, I soon know about it [and I suspect the people round me may notice a difference too] Both of those are daily habits my mother taught me. When I was a child, she supervised me - then once she knew I could do these things by myself, she made sure I had a toothbrush, and Scripture Union notes, and trusted me to get on by myself.
What I haven't worked out, is this - if it takes twenty-one days to make a habit, how long to break one? Along with hundreds of other churches, we are about to re-do our Church Constitution. Our efficient Administrator, Gillian, prepared an envelope for every member [well, one per family]. These were given out to all members at the church meeting on Wednesday. Today, the remainder were set out on a table and more went after the morning service. I looked at some of the names, and thought about members who don't come any more. I appreciate that there are housebound folk, and many of them listen to the services on CD, and friends will deliver their envelopes- but what about the others - people who could come but don't.
What happened? If your habit is being in worship, with God's people every Sunday, how do you get from that, to not going at all? There's stuff in the Baptist Times lately about "Back to Church Sunday" and I just want to know why they stopped going in the first place. Was it something they did - or something we did? ['we' being those of us still there in the pew each week]
Did "Going To Church" mean something different for them - and is that our fault for giving the wrong idea? What is my main aim when I go to worship on a Sunday? And how do I get across the fact that I believe there is a real difference between "Going To Church" and "Being Church" - but that one is inextricably linked with the other?
Sunday Worship is part of the essential framework that underpins my week. If I cannot be there for some reason, I get to Wednesday or Thursday and don't know what day it is! And much as I love seeing friends, and catching up on news, and cuddling the babies, and drinking the coffee, and Kathy bestowing strawberry tarts and all of that, the key thing MUST be the time set apart for prayer and praise and reflection on the Word - time with GOD, in the company of His People.
Years ago, Steph and I were holidaying in Florence. On the Sunday morning, we went to the service in a little chapel near the Ponte Vecchio. We didn't understand the hymns, or the prayers [well, we knew when we got to the Paternoster!] or the sermon [but we found 1 Peter 2:2, which was the preacher's text - and we knew what latte was!!] yet I was so conscious of the presence of God and really valued the opportunity to share in worship.
How can I communicate the special-ness of that to other people? and help them want to share in it too?