My dad calls them “C & E’ers.”
If you’ve attended a church long enough, you’ve probably noticed that some folks only show up once or twice a year- most likely on Christmas and Easter. When I pastored churches, that trend was simultaneously frustrating and fascinating to me. Frustrating, because it’s hard to be a pastor to someone who’s never around yet still (sometimes) has expectations as to what you should do for them and how the church should function. Fascinating, because I couldn’t wrap my mind around the mentality of someone neglecting their faith for 99% of the time and then suddenly “switching it on” for special occasions. How could that sort of spirituality mean anything or benefit anyone?
I still don’t understand, but that trend shows no signs of going away any time soon. As a bonus, the proliferation of “C & E’ers” often gives rise to a related and troubling- but not surprising- mentality: “I can be a Christian without ever going to church.” While it’s true that you can be a “solo Christian,” why would you want to? To do so is to purposefully deny yourself a vital network of fellow believers who can build you up, support you, keep you in line, and help you continue to grow spiritually.
Of course, no church is perfect (and some are genuinely awful) and things sometimes don’t work out, but I’ve found that the majority of folks who walk away from churches and try to “go solo” do so based off of 1 negative experience. While I’m not devaluing how hurtful such experiences can be (especially in cases of abuse or misconduct), most of the excuses I’ve heard folks offer have been petty and inconsequential. In truth, many churchgoers seem to be actively searching for a reason to leave; some perceived slight or offense that can serve as an excuse to justify intentional spiritual self-neglect.
Maybe you’ve got “C & E’ers” in your life. Perhaps you’re one yourself. Whatever the case, Advent (the holy season that leads up to Christmas) is the perfect time to begin a new commitment to your spirituality by becoming a dedicated member of a faith community. It won’t be perfect, and chances are good that you might be offended, made to feel uncomfortable, or get hurt along the way. After all, those are the kind of things that happen when you’re part of a family. Yet in the midst of the messiness that comes with being a part of something bigger than yourself, chances are also good that you’ll experience a closeness to God and to others that you can’t experience anywhere else.
And who knows? Maybe you’ll want to show up more than once or twice a year.