In a conversation regarding the post, Why I don’t want to go to your church, I came to the revelation that even if pastors and church staff are aware of the issue of declining church attendance that plagues most churches in America today, they still manage to miss the reason for the decline and thus their proposals for fixing the problem are doomed to failure from infancy.
First off, we need to look more closely at the problem.
When we define “the church” as a 501c3 non-profit organization, its little wonder that people are not enthusiastic about participating in programs that amount to glorified marketing schemes.
Rather, what we should do is step back and ask some hard questions about how we view the Christian life. What does it mean to walk in obedience to Christ, our Lord? What does it mean to live in fellowship with our fellow brothers and sisters who are also “in Christ”? And finally; What does it mean to let our lights sigh before men?
I believe that among other things, social media will help produce as significant an impact on the body of Christ as the printing press did.
So what of the solution?
Well the solution is not to merely get mad at people for not being enthusiastic about joining yet another civil club. Its also not to encourage them to be more active in your particular civil club. Its also not to get mad at them for preferring a more entertaining civil club down the street (you know, the one with the disco lights and full screen projector1 ). The solution is for us to admit that what the reformation started, it did not complete.
What I mean by that is this: The reformers correctly identified the dependence on the priests of the Roman Catholic Church as a problem. They also correctly identified the Bible as the primary source of authority. However in splitting with Rome they neglected to get rid of Rome’s worst habit, viewing the church as a business.
The solution to the plight of the American church, therefore, is to work on reclaiming a Biblical understanding of “church”.
We’ve been attending a home church with our 3 small children for a couple of years now. At first the whole “we’re going to church” used to confuse our kids when we would switch between going to a building erroneously labeled a “church” and a small gathering of believers living out the Biblical concept. Now, however, our kids are well aware of the two seperate and distinct meanings of the word “church” and they ask us whenever we tell them “we’re going to church”, “the building or the people?”
Believers in general need to come to the realization that the 501c3 non-profit club they have “membership” in is not the church spoken of in Scripture. Oh I’m not saying its wrong to be a member of such an organization, but we need to stop lying to ourselves and others by expecting such membership to amount to anything more than membership at the local YMCA.
So why am I not enthusiastic about your church? Because I’m not impressed by your programs, your entertainment, your pastor, etc.
However I am enthusiastic about the church, headed by Christ alone. Now that is something worth getting excited about.
- I’m thinking about Andy Stanley’s church in particular here. [↩]