In the world of medicine there is a term that is used of prescribed drugs, the “therapeutic level”. It means the amount of drug that must be present in the body to achieve the desired benefit. While it is a term that is used for a number of drugs, it’s one that I came into contact with in my clinical work in psychology, especially as I dealt with clients with bi-polar affect disorder. The medication that was commonly given for this disorder was actually quite effective; the catch was that it took a couple of weeks for the medication to reach “therapeutic levels”—enough to really help the client.
However, one of the common reported side effects of the medication was a feeling of lethargy, and so it was often difficult to persuade patients taking the medication to continue taking the medication. Sometimes they would legitimately forget, sometimes they deliberately forgot; but the response was always the same: “Oh, I didn’t take the meds, but I didn’t relapse. Maybe I’m OK now.” So, they’d skip another, and another. By this point, clients often began to hope that the bi-polar disorder had been cured and that were normal—and they would just completely stop taking the medication.
What they discovered, however, at the end of a couple of weeks was that they were not cured. Little by little, as the therapeutic levels of the medication went down, they became more excitable, step by step they lost sight of appropriate behavior, degree by degree they lost control and finally experienced another full blown episode. It took a couple of weeks to flush the beneficial medication from the body and the mind, a couple of weeks to return to no self-control, inappropriate behavior, and the old madness—which they often seem to sort of like.
Have you ever thought about church attendance and the “therapeutic leveL”? No? Let me share what’s crossed my mind.
So, what does church attendance do? Some would say at the beginning “Not much.” However, as the individual is exposed to Bible preaching, Bible teaching, spiritual singing, prayer, remembrance of the Lord’s sacrifice for us, and warm godly fellowship, the cumulative effect begins to make a difference. Selfishness, pleasure-seeking, lack of control, inappropriate behavior, improper attitudes, unwholesome speech—the symptoms of worldly madness—begin to disappear. They are replaced by Christian love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithful, gentleness, and self-control—the fruit of the Spirit, and one’s truly right mind. And the more we attend the stronger we get. How does this happen? Hebrews 10:24, 25 tells us, “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” While Jesus is certainly the cure for sin and death, the church is God’s spiritual “medication” to keep us strong in our commitment to be in our spiritual “right mind, and against descending back into the spiritual madness of sinful living.
But then life starts getting busier. So much of the world’s activities get scheduled for Sundays, Wednesdays, and sometimes worst of all, late Saturday nights. “C’mon,” says the world (and sometimes our own treacherous hearts), “One sleep-in Sunday won’t send you to Hell.” So, you do; and you notice that the earth didn’t open up and swallow you. So, then a friend teases you about going to church and says, “C’mon, one Sunday morning golf game isn’t gonna hurt ya any. You’re one of the strongest Christian guys I know.” And you believe it, and play golf on Sunday morning. And you notice that, lo and behold, you didn’t rush right out and get drunk or start swearing—well, maybe one swear word, when you shanked the ball into the woods; but you don’t think your friend noticed.
And so it goes. Never feeling radically different from week to week. So, we begin thinking, “Maybe I don’t really need to go to church to be a Christian, to remain spiritually strong.” Little by little, degree by degree we begin to believe that we don’t need it. We wander away never noticing the subtle changes in our life. The influence of the Spirit through the church falls below the spiritual “therapeutic level”. Slowly, imperceptibly, we become more worldly, more callous to sinful influences and sinful deeds, more defensive toward those that urge us to come back to church, and more sensitive to “judgment”. In time, we don’t read the Bible anymore, we don’t pray (unless in dire straits), we let the world dictate right and wrong. We fall back into the spiritual insanity and lostness of the world.
The world mocks church attendance as unimportant at best and a waste of time at worst. What do you think?