I recently saw this meme come through my Facebook feed. Perhaps you’ve seen it, too. This kind of attitude is something I find quite disturbing.
I’ve seen many statistics speaking about how church attendance in America is dwindling, particularly in my age group and younger. There are a variety of reasons given for this trend.
The reason with which I am most familiar is a lack of continuity when it comes to biblical authority. Claiming the Bible to be the infallible Word of God and then contradicting it when it comes to Genesis and the origins of the universe is an inconsistency that is readily seen, though the creation account is not the sole province of finding fault with Scripture. Anytime someone says that what the Bible says isn’t quite the way things happen, they are undermining the authority of Scripture and giving a reason to walk away from the faith. After all, if there’s one error in the Bible, can it really be the Word of God? And if it isn’t, then what’s the point?
Another issue with the American church is that we have a culture of entertaining those in attendance. The problem with this is that if entertainment is the only reason someone is there, more and more will be needed to keep them there. This plays out particularly in youth groups across the country. Now, I am not necessarily against youth groups in general. I’ve been involved in one where the majority of the students were from families that didn’t go to church at all and the reason they even started coming to the Wednesday night sessions was because a man in his 80s went around inviting them and providing transportation to and from the church. A friend of mine lead a youth group where 75-85 students came each week and maybe only 10 or so attended the church. All of these students might not have ever heard a coherent presentation of the Gospel outside of these opportunities. What I find most frustrating is when youth groups are used by church families as glorified free babysitting. I’ve attended several churches where there was nothing going on for the adults during the youth sessions, so parents dropped their kids off and came back an hour or two later to pick them up, not really caring if they learned anything or played games all evening. One time in helping with a youth group did I see a father stay for the entire session the first night he brought his sons, and that impressed me greatly; he demonstrated that he was concerned about what his children would experience.
I’m also finding more people in my generation who have stopped going to church because of all of the problems within the church. To be honest, I find this approach arrogant, condescending, and hypocritical. I am not saying that people haven’t been hurt by those within the church, and removing oneself from a particular congregation may be necessary if repentance is not forthcoming. However, don’t confuse this with a situation where the church upholds the truth of Scripture and rightly calls people out for their sins; if your feelings are hurt because the church said it is wrong for you to live with your boyfriend/girlfriend before marriage, then you need to reexamine the Scriptures and take stock of your life.
There is a growing movement towards unchurching with which I am not entirely comfortable. At least a part of the premise is understandable: the church, when it operates as a business, may not be functioning as Christ intended. But to say that things are bad because a congregation owns a building instead of meeting in homes is a stretch (and this is probably a gross oversimplification). I have often heard a cry for the church to return to the Acts model of operation, but one has to consider that there were a lot of factors at play when the church first came into existence:
- The first converts were almost exclusively Jewish, and converting to Christianity often meant being cut off from business and other relationships. This could include being cut off from the synagogue.
- The first mass conversions took place in Jerusalem and many of those converts were out-of-towners there for Pentecost. Without the synagogue or Temple readily available for worship, meeting in homes was the only option.
- Related to the previous points, converts outside of Jerusalem would not have had a location to meet together besides their homes unless a convert already had a facility under his/her ownership.
There is a lot more that could be said on this topic, but I will close by saying there are Bible-believing congregations throughout the nation that are fantastic alternatives to those that water down the truth or are merely social clubs posing as churches. And, frankly, if you’ve given up on church because of the problems, you’re a part of the problem.