Monday, May 30, 2005

Why People Don't Attend Church (Part 2)

When we consider church attnendance, we have to throw out our assumptions...and we (meaning "we" church goers) have a lot of them. We assume that people believe in God or want to believe. We assume that people want to pursue truth and that we possess it. We assume that coming to our particular church is the most natural thing to do. We assume that if a true seeker does enter our doors that they will easily understand what we are doing, why we are doing it and understand how it all relates to knowing God.

I agree that it is safe to assume that people have at least a minimal faith/belief in God. Polls have continually indicated that throughout the years. The church has warned of our nation turning away from God but that hasn't happened. There is a greater interest in spirituality than ever before. But people have been turning away from "our" kind of God - the Chrisitian God. And why is that? Erwin McManus puts it well...

"The biting truth is that this country in not rejecting spirituality but Christianity. The indictment that we must receive is tha the Christian faith as we express it is no longer seen as a viable spiritual option. Masses gave the church a try and left wanting. We accuse them of not being willing to surrender to God; they accuse us of not knowing him. People are rejecting Christ because of the church! Once we were called Christians by an unbelieving world, and now we call ourselves Christians and the world calls us hypocrites. Is it possible that it wasn't the nation that was becoming dangerously secular but the church? We were neither relevant nor transcendent. We have become, in the worst of ways, religious." an Unstoppable Force, p. 29

The key to this indictment is in the way we express our faith. It may make sense to insiders, people who know the "codes". But to outsiders it comes across as rules and meetings. Who needs that? People are looking for relationship and transcendance.

I say all this to underscore the fact that a big reason that people don't want to come to church has nothing to do with them and everything to do with us! People are looking for something to give their life to, even die for and our message is not compelling. We have drifted far from the faith of the first disciples. So... before we are quick to point the finger at the unchurched, let's look in the mirror and ask where we've gone wrong. That level of honesty alone is attractive.


Anonymous said...

Yes I believe that you are right. People are absolutely looking for spirituality, but Christianity has little credibility with most. To speak out to church leaders and church members in general about the lack in modern day churches reminds me of how the prophets spoke out to the religious in their day. We need modern day prophets. I'm glad to hear from you.

Remy Diederich said...

I think we live in a great day and time where we CAN critique the church without being burned at the stake! In ten years the church at large will be radically different. As I wrote before, we are experiencing a modern day Reformation.

After I initially came to faith I began to see the weaknesses in the church structure. I've had a love/hate relationship with the church ever since. My first reaction was to distance myself from the church. But then I realized that that did nothing to change it. So I got involved and now, I'm a pastor! It's a great place to be to affect change. But I'm also seeing the powerful forces in place that lead to mediocrity and stagnation. The day I let that happen is the day I need to resign.

I'm grateful that others have seen the same things and are now writing about them. They are being both attacked by old liners yet also welcomed by people with the same love/hate tension. It's an exciting time to be in the church.

Anonymous said...

The one thing your are missing Remy, is that some folks don't want to feel pressured. At first Cedarbrook is very welcoming and friendly. Later the pressure to serve, to participate, and to join the church family, which increases gradually over time. This is great for those who want that extension of family. You need helpers to make the services work for everyone. I did not want to participate to that extent. We have stopped coming to Cedarbrook for that reason. We felt that it wasn't enough for us to just go to services, but that we had to participate in everything, until it got overwhelming in our already busy lives. God is everywhere, not just at Cedarbrook activities.

Remy Diederich said...

I appreciate that. Without a doubt I challenge people to take another step toward commitment to the community and service...and I do that without apology. It's a hard balance to strike...welcoming people and telling them they can just watch from afar without engaging yet calling people to a deeper commitment to faith, community and service. Realistically, I don't know if you can have it both ways without doing injustice to the other value. So a person has to choose what they will ultimately emphasize.

I'm sorry that you felt pressure. That was unintended. I respect the fact that not everyone is in a place to serve for various reasons...job situation, health or emotional stress, relational stress...the list goes on and on. But I feel it's my responsibility to communicate that church is not a Sunday pep talk. It's a calling to a radical counter cultural lifestyle. If I have to err, I will err on the side of calling people to sacrifice and dedication. Again, I'm sorry that you no longer feel that Cedarbrook is a place for you. I hope you have found a church that draws you close to God's heart.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone ever wants to feel pressured, but it seems there is much distance, different points of reference between feeling pressured to interact and coming to "be fed" but not wanting to get involved.