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!