Why Americans are not attending church

While scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday I saw five different links to find out why Americans are no longer attending church. They all listed several points. I am going to weigh in on it, and give my top two points that were not listed. Time, and value. The two go together, and these two are in my opinion, two of the top reasons Americans are not going to church.

Time is very precious, I have written about that before. Many Americans don’t have any time, it is all spoken for. We live in a time where many have to work 6 and 7 days a week in order to survive, and take care of their families. When they do get a day off they would like to see one of their kids play sports, or go see their family. When they do get a day off and go to church they don’t want to be ridiculed for not being there more often.

But isn’t it true that we can all choose where, and how we spend the time that we do have? Yes it is true, and this where value comes in. We choose to go to work everyday because we value the pay check, benefits, etc, or even call it a need. We choose to go see our kids play sports because we find value, and joy in doing so. We choose to spend our time on what we find valuable. So what does that say about choosing to not go to church. It says we don’t value it.

Why do we as a people no longer value going to church? I would say there are many reasons, but one reason that can sum a lot of it up is that we have heard it all before. If it is an old covenant condemning type church we already know we are not good enough. If it is a prosperity get everything you want type church, we live in a consumeristic society, we have been taught to chase the American dream. Where do you think the prosperity movement was born? Combine some scriptures, and the American dream and there you have it. We are burdened by it every day. It breeds endless jealousy, envy, comparison, and burden. If it’s a church where we just have to believe harder, and have more faith in order to overcome life happening to us, we’ve heard that too. We’ve heard it all before.

Why do we hear more about external growth than internal growth? Why are we hearing that profit is more important than people? Business is business right? We hear these things everyday at work, we don’t need to hear it in church. Why are we going to church and never hearing about Jesus, the good news, and His kingdom?

Why is the number of people going to church in America shrinking every year, but some pastors are reporting that 100,000 people are turning to the church every year in China? Could it be that they are presenting what is valuable? Could it be that their message is Jesus the savior, the redeemer, the prince of peace, the provider, speaking the good news gospel, etc? Could it be that they know life happens, and they don’t make people feel guilty about it? Could it be they don’t just tell people to believe more, have more faith, and say they will pray for you, but they actually put their skin in the game and help you while you are down? Could it be that they understand the only thing that makes us Christians different is Christ?

The love of Christ is our litmus test. It’s how we should be identified, and known to be Christians. It’s what should make us different when people encounter us. It should come out of us when we are around people. It’s what is valuable.

I know very little, but I know this….if you can provide a place where people can come in and have an encounter with Jesus, His love, and the miracles and healings, etc that follow….they will make time to come back to Him (not you and your church) over and over again. They will find something so valuable every time that they will keep coming back to Him. Even if they falter. If it’s a safe place, they will come back because they won’t fear judgement.

We can get concerts from the world. We can get motivational speakers from the world. We can get personal finance from the world. We can get condemnation from the world. We can get judgement from the world. The only thing we can not get from the world is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Romans 10:14 “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” This is the value we could offer, an encounter with Him.

New technologies, aging generations, new demographics, etc, it doesn’t matter what you call the issue, encounters with the one true God will transform people. It may be a post-Christian America, but that’s because we decided encounters with God should come second to our own agendas.

I love the church in it’s original purpose, I have hope for the church, I minister in the church. This is my attempt to see things from the other side of the door after studying the reported data on Americans and church attendance. It is also me being transparent about my own thoughts, and things I have worked through.

I hope this didn’t come off as judgmental as that wasn’t my aim. There are no perfect churches as they are led by and full of imperfect people, but there are some really healthy, great churches in America. Jesus said ” ‘I’ will build my church”, I love His church. You will know it’s His church when you are there because He will be present.

If you haven’t been to church in a long time, go out and try to find a place where you walk away knowing you encountered the one true God, it will be worth it.

God is for you, and I am for you!

 

What are your barns for?

I think that I would be pretty accurate in saying that part of the ‘American dream’ is to work, save, invest, and multiply all you can so that you have enough retirement to kick back, relax, eat, drink, and enjoy the good life. It sounds great, it sounds right, and it’s very easy to get wrapped up in. I know I have been wrapped up in it, and I’m not even close to retirement. However, Jesus called it foolish in Luke chapter 12. (read it here) I think we have to remember that the American dream, or whichever national dream is not the kingdom dream. I will add a disclaimer and say that I don’t think Jesus was calling the act of planning, being prudent, or being a good steward foolish as there are plenty of scriptures that instruct us to act in these ways. I think Jesus was teaching us about mindsets, heart conditions, and motives.

America is very consumeristic, but not everything God gives you is for your consumption. It’s not for your consumption now, or in the future. Not everything given to you is for you to obtain bigger, and better. Not everything given to you is for future retirement, or generational building. Some things are just put in your hands to give to someone else. The things of God are not just given to you, but are meant to move through you. Everything belongs to God, as in God is the owner. You don’t own anything including your own life. You are a steward, or one who looks after the owner’s stuff. There is nothing wrong with storing things up if that’s what the owner asks you to do. However, if the owner asks you to give it all away you have to be willing to do that as well. I love to talk about dreams, and vision for your life, but it is not something that is done through autonomy. You ask the owner what the vision is, and then you do your best to steward that vision.

In the parable, the rich fool says to himself you have plenty stored away to kick back, and take it easy. The problem is that he was talking to himself. He didn’t ask the owner what he should do with all of his extra. He laid up treasures for himself, but he was not rich toward God. The American christian mindset is much the same. We try to store up what we think is ours in order to make sure we can have the easy life we want in the future. Our minds are set on obtaining, and storing. Our hearts are set on ourselves because of greed. So then our motives are completely autonomous, or self driven. We want to make more so that we can get more rather than asking the owner what we should do, or considering that if we can make more we can give more. The only reason to have overflowing barns is so that you can give the overflow.

We have a tendency to want to build our own kingdoms. It goes all the way back to the tower of babel. Many try to disguise it as for the kingdom rather than for self, but disguises are not the true identity. It would probably be wise for us to insert some firewalls against ourselves when building, and filling barns. Here is a thought to consider….when Jesus was walking the earth one of the things that His followers got wrong was that they thought He came to establish His kingdom on the earth at that time. (His kingdom is established, and ever increasing it just didn’t look like they thought it would) It caused a scattering when it didn’t turn out the way they expected. Jesus said His kingdom is not of this earth. Are we making the same mistake? Are we trying to build earthly kingdoms more than we are trying to impart, and commission? Jesus spent His time building people. Disclaimer again, I’m not saying things should never be built, established, etc.

I have had a couple major fumbles in this area on my journey. The good thing about that is I am able to learn, and I have found that the fumbles cause me to pursue God’s desires for my life even more. It is a great self check when your realize you have forgotten that you don’t own your money, vision, or anything else. Furthermore, the great thing about fumbles and our loving Father is that he lets you carry the ball again. The great coaches in your life will do the same, and you should do the same for your players. A fumble doesn’t mean a person should be moved down on the depth chart, it just means they need another set of downs.

Back to the beginning. I don’t want to build overflowing barns to kick back, and disconnect. I don’t want to drift out of life, and be retired from serving in the kingdom. However, I do want to transition in what I am doing in the future. I want to transition from being the ball carrier to being on the offensive line blocking, and making a way for others. I believe the Lord will allow me to build and fill some barns, but I also believe it is for the purpose of making sure they are emptied out into others before I go. The sooner I can make a way for others to score the better.

Have you asked the owner if you should build some barns, and why?