Wall Street markets were closed on Good Friday. Their other annual religious holiday is Christmas Day. Given the cultural trend toward a secular worldview, one wonders how long before they cancel or rename those holidays.
Just in my lifetime I’ve witnessed that trend. Growing up in a small town in the South, nothing was open on Sunday except churches and restaurants. I guess the city fathers didn’t think the Lord would mind if we ate out after church meeting. Grandma was certain that fishing on Sunday was a sin, so we didn’t. And we certainly had no little league baseball games or practice on the Lord’s Day. Blue laws tended to keep things quiet one day a week so we could rest from our labors. Oh, the nostalgia of a sunny, lazy, Sunday afternoon with nothing to do, no place to go.
Times change. Gallop dropped a poll last week showing church membership among Americans fell below fifty percent for the first time, extending a 20-yr downward trend. Maybe that’s why more businesses keep Sunday hours (but not a certain chicken chain based in Georgia).
Gallup attributes the church membership drop to (1) fewer Americans claim any religious preference and (2) fewer religious Americans prioritize church membership. The latter could be due to participation in religious activities in homes. Barna Group research shows an increasing number of Americans attend religious meetings in homes. They estimate 12 million Americans attend a house church regularly.
In The House Church Book, Wolfgang Simpson writes, “The New Testament church was made up of small groups, typically between ten and fifteen people. It grew by multiplying ‘sideways,’ dividing like organic cells.” The Bible mentions the church meeting in the homes of Aquila and Prisca (1 Cor. 16:19), Philemon and Apphia (Phile. 1:1-2), and others. Over time as the church gained influence it began to build sacred spaces, shifting away from home meetings.
While the culture shifts toward secularization and away from traditional values, many churches in America are strengthening their members with home fellowships. The last 30 years have proved their popularity, sometimes despite zoning threats against Christian friends meeting to pray. Some home gatherings are part of a traditional church, others function as churches. Maybe the church is experiencing its own cultural renewal, a return to our roots.
This time of year, Wall Street fears an old rumor that Good Friday trading led to the worst market collapse in history. Not the best reason to continue that holiday. Some churchgoers act on a rumor that attending church tips the celestial scales in their favor. I can think of better reasons to gather with believers, like community and worship. And what if that gathering is not in a religious building, but a house? Is that too much of a culture shift for you?