Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Why People Don't Attend Church (Part 5)

Along the lines of telling people what to think, people also stop coming to church when they see that Christians have every question answered and tied up with a pretty bow.

Imagine this, you are new to a fact, new to church all together. You have some questions/longings in regard to God so you think that church might be a good place to start your quest. You walk in and everyone is dressed for a dinner party...dresses, suits, well manicured, etc. That's not bad but you take note. Then you are greeted by very smiley people. In fact, they all smile about the same, as if they had a class in smiling. You are a little uncomfortable, but you are determined.

You reach your seat and notice that there is a high number of intact, mom, and two children, or at least couples, in all the pews. Again, that's nice but it makes you feel a bit odd since you've been divorced twice and now you are living with someone. The music starts, everyone rises on cue. The music isn't too fast or too slow. It's not too loud or too soft. It's just right. A bit boring by your standards but everyone else seems pleased.

Now comes the sermon. The pastor raises some deep questions about faith, God, humanity and suffering. You are glad you came because these are exactly the issues that got you to church in the first place. With such deep questions you are guessing that the pastor might take a few weeks to address them all. But within a matter of minutes he quotes a few Bible verses, offers a few trite answers and closes in prayer. You look around in amazement. He can't be serious. But everyone else seems content. Satisfied. And you leave disappointed, with no intention of going back.

Lesson: We too often sell God out as some answer man in the sky. We have our catechisms with an answer for every question you can imagine. The thinking person doesn't expect an answer for everything. They just want to get a perspective on life. They find it refreshing when people say, "We really don't know what God will do about that." Too often churches feel compelled to resolve every quandry that people have but in doing so they remove the mystery from God as well as the joy of worshipping him.

There are some definites about God and Jesus. We can declare those boldly. But we need to learn to be quiet about the indefinites. We aren't fooling anyone when we speak with certainty about things for which we are clueless.

And when we speak with less certainty, not more, it will be reflected in who attends and what they look like! When life is mapped out down to the last square inch, visitors look at us and say, "I don't fit in here." But when life has some mystery, that communicates a freedom to be different and visitors realize that your community is open to diversity. You aren't looking for cookie-cutter believers but sincere, thoughtful seekers of God.

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