Friday, August 3, 2012

Why People Don't Go to Church Anymore

From Thom Schulz, owner of Group Publishing: 
Last weekend most people in America avoided church. And, a sizable portion of those who did make it to church
wished they were somewhere else. But why?

I decided to go direct to the source. I staked out a city park to ask the public why they weren’t in church. What they
told me echoed what I’ve been hearing for several years now.

Their reasons centered around four recurring themes:
“Church people judge me.” A young woman told me that as a child she regularly attended church and Sunday school. But she’s given up on the church as an adult. “They make me feel like an outcast,” she said. “How? Why?” I asked. “Well, I’m a smoker,” she said.
“I don’t want to be lectured.” More people today want to participate in the discussion. A man told me he’s talked with over a thousand other men who’ve given up on church. He said, “Guys don’t want to sit in a room and idly listen to some preacher do all the talking. They want to ask questions. They want to share their thoughts too.”
“They’re a bunch of hypocrites.” I know church leaders are weary of this “excuse.” But people aren’t merely referring to incongruous behavior. What bothers them is the sense that church spokespeople act like they have all the answers. (Emphasis added -- CK.) That they’ve arrived. That they’re only interested in telling others what to do—“teaching,” to use the church vernacular.
“I don’t want religion. I want God.” Most people don’t experience God at church. They’re not looking for the “deep” theological trivia that seems to interest some preachers. They crave something very simple. They’re dying to be reassured that God is real, that he is more than a historical figure, that he is present today, and that he is active in the lives of people around them.
Those of us who remain in this imperfect gathering of the faithful need to stop talking and “teaching” long enough to listen to the majority outside our walls. I’m not suggesting their views are flawless. Or that we should design ministry merely according to consumer whims. But we do need to keep our ultimate goal in mind—to help bring others into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

That’s what defined the ministry of Jesus himself. He boldly broke away from the habits and routines of the religious elite of the time. And he fashioned a highly relational ministry that connected with the disenfranchised.

This is Claude talking: This "article" by Thom Schulz was actually the introduction to an advertisement for a new ministry resource from Group Publishing. But it resonated with me so deeply that I wanted to share it here. 

From the very beginning, when my buddy Mack Strange started it, Covenant Community has been a church specifically designed to address these four concerns. 

#1: We want people to feel accepted when they come in. "Grace" is one of our values. 

#2: I try to make my sermons more like a conversation and less like a lecture. Granted, I've not yet reached the point where we have open Q&A, or interactive discussion during worship--some churches actually do that, and maybe we'll get there eventually--but I do try hard (don't always succeed) not to sound "preachy" when I teach. 

#3: We at Covenant are honest about the fact that we've all got struggles. None of us has arrived. None of us has all the answers. Not that we aren't trying to go forward. "Growth" is another of our values. But we freely and readily admit that we're all broken sinners saved by grace. 

#4: We want our worship services to be a meeting with God. That's why we sing praise songs that focus on God. That's why we allow free expression. That's why there are moments of quiet and moments of prayer. That's why we pray at the altar and offer intercessory prayer ministers. We want to do more than learn about God--we want to experience God. 

I hope you are as passionate about and committed to these values as I am. 

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