Friday, July 15, 2005

Radio Dialogue - Day Two

This is the script we used for the WWIB program (airing July 18-22).

Remy: Welcome back to our discussion of Why People Don't Attend Church. I've got Christine Ruth with me, one of the teachers at Cedarbrook Church. We noted yesterday that only 20% of people in their 20's are attending church.
Christine, yesterday I quoted from Erwin McManus, another pastor who said that "the Christian faith, as we express it, is no longer a viable option" for many people. He's taking a shot at how we communicate our message - saying that people have lost interest. Why do you think that is?
Christine: I think my generation sees becoming a Christian less as an event and more as a process- a journey spanning one’s whole lifetime. I think of Martin Luther who said that baptism isn’t one-time event, but a daily process – that every day, we must, in a sense, wake up and volunteer for death, so that Christ can raise us up to new life once again.
One of the things that has surprised me on my Christian journey is the discovery that the more I study the Bible, the more I realize I know nothing – how BIG the mystery of God is. I think Scripture was inappropriately presented to me as a “how-to manual” or a “rule book” that would provide black-and-white answers to all of my questions. The trite way in which some of my Christian mentors tried to respond to my questions put God into this small little box that eventually strangled my faith. I wish church leaders were more comfortable humbly admitting that there’s a lot of paradox and mystery in Scripture and that they would feel comfortable resting in the ambiguities they find there.
Remy: I agree. As a speaker, it's a challenge to preach truth without coming across as simplistic - like – “you don't have to think about this, just believe what I say”. That approach may have worked for my generation and older, but today people want to come to their own conclusions. People today aren’t looking to be converted. They are looking for a conversation. They have their own ideas about God and they want their ideas to be respected even though they may be wrong. I don’t know if we’ve done a good job of listening to people in the church. We tend to just tell them what to think.
Christine: And I’m looking for honesty too. As a seeker, I want to know that YOU wrestle too, instead of feeling like you own the corner on the market of spiritual truth. I was taught that the Bible would answer all my questions about life. But I don’t think that’s true. It’s not that black and white. Now I realize that the Bible point me to the God who is bigger than all of my questions and promises that if I seek Him, I will find him.
Remy: Thanks Christine. Let's pick this conversation up tomorrow as we look at more reasons why people don't attend church.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Radio Dialogue on Church

I prerecorded a radio show that will be playing next week on the local Christian radio station (WWIB). I thought you might like to "listen in" by reading the transcript. There are five two minute shows...


Remy: Welcome to Reflections. This week I'm going to be talking about Why People Don't Go to Church and to help me out I've asked one of the teachers from our church, Christine Ruth. Welcome, Christine.

Christine: Thanks, Remy. It's good to be here.

Remy: Christine, I heard some rough statistics once that said about 50% of 50 years olds attend church, 40% of 40 year olds attend church and that keeps falling to 20% of 20 year olds attend church. I don't like that trend. You're 31, from your perspective, what is it that you think the church is missing?

Christine: I think we lack authenticity. Most of my friends that grew up in the church have left it, and many of them have no church experience whatsoever. I think my generation is rebelling against what we perceive to be a very hypocritical, church that puts more emphasis on going through the motions of church life than authentically putting those beliefs into practice through the exercise of justice, compassion, and genuine community – following the Way of Jesus.

Remy: Will your friends ever come to church? Is there hope for your generation?

Christine: I think there is. The good news is that my generation (20-30 something’s) is very “spiritual”, meaning they’re very interested in the supernatural in general. I read that the spirituality section in bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders has tripled in the last decade. So, I think the church can build on that interest.

Remy: I read an interesting quote from Erwin McManus recently. He said...
"The biting truth is that this country is not rejecting spirituality but Christianity. The indictment that we must receive is that the Christian faith as we express it is no longer seen as a viable spiritual option. ...People are rejecting Christ because of the church!" an Unstoppable Force, p. 29

McManus said that people are rejecting Jesus because of the church! That's got to make you stop and think. What do you think of that?

Christine: The church doesn’t always preach good news. That’s why people reject it. When we preach rules or our pet doctrines or our personal agenda then we lose our audience. People stop listening and look in other places. That’s what happened in my generation.

Remy: I was also struck by another part of the McManus quote. He said that "the Christian faith, AS WE EXPRESS IT is no longer seen as a viable option". He's implying that, if we want to get our message across, we have to improve the way we communicate. Let's talk about that tomorrow.

Christine: Okay!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Power of Community's been a week since I posted. Sorry about that. I've been part -time preacher and part-time painter for the new land/house that Cedarbrook just purchased. That's the problem when your past life includes the trades (painting and wallpaper). You get to volunteer!

I'm thinking about community today for a couple of reasons. First I'm been thinking about how sharp our leadership team is. Great decision makers. High integrity. Hard workers. The down side of every great achiever is that they don't always spend the time simply relating like they should. I really believe that the long term success of Cedarbrook (or any organization) flows out of committed relationships. Relationships can flow out of work if you are working side by side. But if everyone is off doing something different, that will never lead to relationship...usually just the opposite. We've got work to do here.

I'm also thinking about community after having coffee with a friend this morning. I left our conversation so pumped - as I often do. We dream together about how God might use us. For instance, he was driving through western Wisconsin the other day (Hammond area) and saw all the new homes. His first thought was "Cedarbrook should plant a church here!" That challenged me because I really believe that we DO need to be starting another church. It's just so easy to get bogged down in the day to day work.

My point is, I need people like that in my life to keep me moving in the right direction. So do you! Without them we get comfortable - even lazy. We pat ourselves on the back for what we've done and forget to look forward at the new risk that God wants us to take.

So - where are you in all this? How is your circle of community? Or is it just you and the dog? Maybe you can do something about that.