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!

 

The turn back…it’s God designed

Have you ever found yourself being chased by the same thing? Maybe you thought you finally got away from that issue, but it showed up again. Now let me add to it, have you ever found yourself being chased by the same thing when you know, that you know, that you know you are being obedient to God, and doing what He asked you to? I have.

Now I am not talking about repeatedly choosing to sin. I’m talking about when you are trying to do what God wants you to do, but you keep finding yourself under a barrage of attack by the enemy. Almost as if going in circles. A lot of times when this happens we start to feel like we are stuck in a rut, or feel like we are stuck in some kind of bad cycle, and maybe even start being accused of such things.

There is an interesting little piece of text in Exodus 14:1-4 where God tells Israel to turn back. God delivers Israel from slavery in Egypt, and they are on their way to the promised land free and clear. They were moving in a direction that they would not even need to cross the red sea; however, God then tells them to turn back. He says you turn back, I am going to harden Pharaohs heart, you set up camp for about a week and allow him and his army to catch up. (you can read the whole story for full context)

I’m sure the people had some thoughts about this idea. The person they were just delivered from was going to be allowed to catch back up to them, and seemingly capture them again. I’d say they probably didn’t like the plan. However, Moses assures them that God will deliver them.

So moving through the story, God allows Israel to cross the red sea on dry ground, but he drowns Pharaoh, and his whole army. What God actually did was take Israel from being delivered to being free. As long as they were afraid and looking over their shoulder for pharaoh they would never be free. Delivered from his hand, but not free.

So here’s the thing, sometimes God has you turn back in order to thoroughly destroy the thing that keeps chasing you. You may have been delivered from an attack, but not free from the fear. God wants you to be free. More importantly, when He does these things in your life it lets everyone around you know that He is God, and it glorifies Him.

Live your life kingdom first, God really is for you! I am for you!

When it comes to the kingdom first life, looks are deceiving.

Success as defined by the world is not a very good indicator of a kingdom first life. I would even say go ahead and take it off of your key indicators list. The character of a person matters more. If they were to lose it all, what kind of person would be left standing in the middle of their loss? Before you tie yourself to someone consider how they reached their level of success. Did they use and abuse people? Simply put, look past what they have and try to see what kind of person they are. There are a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing. There is a lot of deception used that is justified through saying it is for the advancement of the kingdom.

I can see two major things that satan does in order to attack our faith and character, or entice us in a direction we don’t need to go, and he often uses other people to do it. He attacks our stuff, or he offers us a bunch of bling. You can understand how much importance, and unhealthy love people put on possessions just by seeing that is what satan chooses to use in order to either attack us, or entice us.

When we read the story of Job we tend to emphasize all that he lost at the hands of satan; however, satan didn’t really care about Job’s possessions. He was attacking Job’s character in order to get him to lose his faith and curse God.  The attack failed, Job maintained his character, and everything that he lost plus more was restored to him. When things don’t seem to be going your way, when people tell you that you are failing, when people tell you God won’t promote you because your house isn’t in order, when they make accusations against you, when you feel like you are losing it all, etc just maintain your faith and your character.

When you are willing to lose it all to stay true to God, that is when you have it all. If you have Christ you have everything. Your inheritance is not in stuff, or the approval of people, it is life in Christ.

Then we have the temptation of Jesus. “the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” There is nothing to gain in selling your soul. The things of this world are worthless in comparison to life in Christ, and His kingdom. When your hearts are drawn to the things of this world and all of their glory, be vigilant for an enemy could be enticing you. Maintain your faith and character.

Possessions, stuff, money, wealth, etc, they are amoral. They are neither good nor bad; however, how you acquire can be good, or bad. How you use can be good, or bad. How you feel about can be good, or bad. What it becomes to you can be good, or bad. How you present it to other people can be good, or bad.

If satan is attacking you, God will work it all out in a way to benefit you. Romans 8:28

If satan is enticing you onto the wrong path, Jesus is still standing on the right path. John 14:6

God is for you, and I am for you!