The TUMBLEDOWN Effect
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.
Gravity is the bad guy in the "Jack and Jill" nursery rhyme. Jack fell down because of the physical force that attracts a body toward the center of the earth's mass. Jill came tumbling after because of the same inexorable force.
Question: are there gravity-like forces at work in the spiritual realm?
Question: is there "Jack & Jill" influencing among Christians?
Question: how are Bro. Jack and Sis. Jill influencing attendance?
Just as all physical bodies are pulled downward by gravity, spiritual souls are also subject to a downward pull. Christians refer to his as apostasy, as falling away, or as losing faith. No physical forces causes us to backslide, but there is force just the same. As Paul said, "Some shall depart from the faith" (I Tim. 4:1).
Worse, "Some" influence others.
Spiritual TUMBLEDOWN occurs when first Jack, and then Jill, and then a whole host of Jacks and Jills are influenced by the first Jack and Jill. We ought to influence each other for good, in other words, but we often influence each other for evil. Like the sheep that we are, when one sheep goes "BAAAAAAD," the other sheep go bad also.
Attendance - In The Ditch
Two principles should effect our worship attendance. The first is an "ought to" principle. The second is an "except for" principle.
The "ought to" principle is based on the fact of worship and on the must of worship. Paul spoke of the fact of worship, of "Coming together in one place" (I Cor. 11:20, 14:23). The same apostle said that we "should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some it" (Heb. 10:24-25). Christians have historically gathered together to worship because Christians ought to gather together for worship.
The "except for" principle is found in Luke 14:5 where Jesus asked, "If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?" Jewish law forbade almost all exertion and work on the Sabbath Day. Recognizing that exceptional circumstances naturally influenced decisions about Sabbath-keeping, Jesus also distinguished between "real necessity and habits of self-indulgence" when to comes to Christian worship gatherings.
Caution should be observed. Luke 14:5 describes real necessities in the ditch. Too often and too easily, we turn Jesus' ox and child into any self-indulgence. In fact, there are no ball games, service organizations, or "I'm just too tireds" in the ditch.
We Know How This Works
Imagine a dedicated Christian whose "manner" is to worship faithfully. Imagine now that this Christian falters and begins skipping services. At first, their conscientious bothers them and they feel shame. But slowly the gravity sets in and they begin to tumble down. Skipping worship become easier and easier for them. The TUMBLEDOWN Effect takes them from regular worship, to irregular worship, to rare worship, to the empty conscience of no worship at all.
Imagine a congregation of dedicated Christians for whom worship is an "ought to." Imagine now that one or two of these Christians begin finding Really Good Reasons to skip services. Others will observe. Others will find their own Really Good Reasons that are really just Really Poor Reasons. After it becomes known that several are skipping because of Really Poor Reasons, still others will begin skipping for Any Reason At All.
We know how this works. There are gravity-like forces in the spiritual realm that pull us downward. Our weakness influences others to become weak. When one or two fall down, many others come tumbling after. Worse, in the confused mind of chronic tumblers, tumbling becomes the good and attending becomes the bad.
Still worse, the inexorable force of gravity is very hard to fight. As unpleasant as it might have been, Jack and Jill's fall down the hill was much easier than any climb back up. Similarly, in the spiritual real, the down-hill slide builds easy momentum.
The TUMBLEUP is much harder. In climbing back up hills or in correcting bad habits of attendance, tough steps must be taken. The Bible calls these steps repentance, as in "God commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30).