Church

I was at a conference this past weekend and one of the speakers made the following statement: “Last year, 150,000 people left the Presbyterian Church (USA) because they had decided not to attend church any longer.”

I usually hear stories about people who move from one church to the other.

Hearing that people are simply quitting church struck a raw nerve.

In the last couple of decades, the church has gotten real good at niche marketing. There are churches for almost every taste, style and theology out there.

If you look long enough, you can find a church specifically tailored to your personality and desires.

Why are people quitting?

In September, DOOR will be receiving a new class of Dwellers. These are young adults who spend a year living, working and serving in one of our DOOR locations. One of the more difficult issues that these Dwellers deal with every year is finding a “home church.”

These young adults are committed to their faith. They are seriously considering full-time vocational ministry. They are just not sure where or how the church fits into all of this.

This leads to frustration on my part.

There are so many options for church.

Why do they have to complain?

If they would just get involved, they could be a part of the solution.

Is it possible people have become cynical with the fragmentation and specialization of the church? We have liberal and conservative churches, emerging and traditional churches, non-denominational and mainline churches, those that sing hymns and those who sing choruses.

Is it possible that the niche marketing that draws some has repelled others? Is the church too fragmented and specialized?

In my seminarian days, I read about the “homogeneous unit principle”—that church functions best when people who look the same, worship the same, believe the same and live the same all worship together.

Is it possible that a generation of people has emerged having little interest in sameness?

It was Jesus who prayed in John 17 that we, followers of Jesus, would be one.

I am a Mennonite and we like to talk about our distinctives, all the stuff that makes us different. What would it mean for me to lay my distinctives aside and focus on what I have in common with others?

I can’t help but wonder if this is what the church is going to have to do.

Can you picture a church hiring both a liberal and conservative pastors? Not to create fights, but to allow space to hear what the spirit of God might be saying.

Is it possible to create a space where traditional mainliners and immigrant Pentecostals can worship together in the same space at the same time?

If the church is going to survive, it is going to have to change.

Can we find ways to define ourselves by what we have in common, before launching into how different we are from each other?

It will mean holding a bit looser to our theology, style of worship and distinctives.

It will mean creating space for perspectives that differ from ours.

It will mean loving first and judging rarely.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Church

  1. Perhaps the possibility should be considered that what is called "church" today is not really Christ's church. Everyone agrees that church is not a building, place or particular group of people. Yet it is routinely described as such. At the emotional level people believe that church is a place they "go" to and something they "attend". After the meeting they believe they've "had" church. They refer to this event center as "their" church and call themselves by whatever name given to the particular brand of religion they identify with. These misconceptions come from what has been exampled and emphasised to them. Many who have "quit church" have come to realize that the church is people who are the church seven days a week. They've come to understand that relationship with God through Christ and genuine relationships with one another is the essence of true church life. They realize that leaders are called to equip God's people for works of service, not to do the works themselves, that those works are for the building up of the body of Christ, not a particular religious institution. They found that they were'nt becoming mature in Christ by listening to a lecture every Sunday while staring at the back of someone's head. In short, they came to realize that most of what is called church today is part of a religious system that was never instituted nor validated by Jesus Christ.

  2. It used to surprise me to hear people talk about "quitting church", until I reached the point where I was wrestling with the same issue.I'm a serious Christian who desires to follow the Lord's lead. I grew up in a Christian family (including the extended family), with good Christian influences everywhere I turned. I've been exposed to good theology since I was a little kid. I've studied the Bible thoroughly and carefully, and I can give an informed opinion with solid scriptural and philosophical support on virtually any relevant Biblical or moral issue. My wife and I wrote a course on Biblical Interpretation that has impressed several pastors. I get involved in ministry wherever I go. The elders of one church said our joining as members was an answer to their prayers. I realize the value of Christian community, of communal worship and prayer and support. So why would someone like me wrestle with "quitting church"? Why do people like your DOOR Dwellers have trouble figuring out how church fits in?I go to church to worship the Lord, to learn about Him, to fellowship with His people, and to be exposed to opportunities for ministry (either with my time or money). Yet often, "worship" is scripted and tepid, with people mumbling "a mighty fortress is our God" or whatever other song the worship leader happened to pick that morning. Sermons sometimes teach a lesson everyone learned in third grade ("don't judge people by outward appearance"? Wasn't that the point of Shrek?) and they say nothing more of value, or worse yet, they teach about the power of compound interest and why you should get out of debt. In some churches, "fellowship" involves shaking someone's hand during the one song where the pastor says you should. In some churches, the only "ministries" are to sing on Sunday morning, take care of the kids in the nursery, or give 10% of your check to pay for a huge new building that will only be used on Sunday morning, and any ministry you get involved in, the pastor or the elder board will give you all sorts of detailed guidelines like "you have to have an assistant who keeps track of time, and a second assistant who provides refreshments" (I didn't make that last one up.)If the church is going to survive, we're going to have to offer people real worship, valuable learning and discussion, true fellowship, and worthwhile opportunities for ministry. Most churches would say they do these things, but they end up looking like the paragraph above. AW Tozer once said that if the Holy Spirit left the modern church, ninety percent of what we do would keep happening; is it any wonder that people looking for the Lord don't see the value in it?The most real church I've ever been a part of was an online prayer group, where the five of us would confess our sins, pray for each other, sing praise songs individually or together, talk about what we'd read in the Bible, and encourage one another. If the Holy Spirit had left us, we'd have sat there in chat for five minutes not saying anything, and we'd all know it. We had none of the trappings of "church", no pastor, no building, but the hours we spent together were far more valuable than what you often get from a "church service".Diverse perspectives and styles can be helpful, but they're only a tool; the key is being about God in everything we do, and structuring the way we "do church" around God instead of the pastor, worship leader, offering, etc. People want God; offer Him and they're not going to "quit" church.

  3. Believers leaving the 'church'makes sad reading, but it is happening. Most like myself and my husband (both 53 now)are not in fellowship, but keep in contact with fellow believers.Church has become to social club oreintated and taking up most of the service with someones weekend dance festival or fun and games is not what Jesus had in mind. I could go into much detail but no doubt you will understand where I am coming from.I found that if any believer was led by the Spirit to speak a word of encouragement or burst out into spontanious singing or prayer this would be fround upon.I pray daily that the Lord would seriously interviene in His Church (perhaps He has and this is why so many faithful believers are leaving!)and guide pastors back to The Acts of the Apostles and His Gospels and follow carefully, allowing HIM to take charge of HIS church and not man.We know from the word that there will be only a little flock; I wonder just how little this will be?God Bless you all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father, May His Grace be upon all the Faithful who truly long to follow Him!

  4. I like Shrek movies, great animation.

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