How do you feel about the lack of enthusiasm most people seem to display when it comes to church? Many Christians lament the fact that, overall, North American church attendance has been steadily dwindling for years. Some church-goers blame this decline on our decadent/depraved culture, others blame technology and our resulting lowered attention spans (read: church is boring), and others fall back on the Bible passage that says in the end-times, things will go from bad to worse.
But, could we as believers be to the ones to blame for the universal lack of the church's growth? Perhaps where we've traditionally focused our attention has been detrimental to the Kingdom's growth. So much of our "in-house" arguing/disagreements on the part of modern-day believers has relatively little to do with what Jesus taught about, or what lost people focus on.
Part of maturing spiritually is growing in the ability to reflect on our transformation and to see areas where we need to submit even more to the Spirit's leading. It's my opinion that far too many of us waste time and energy on fruitless pursuits which will not win people to Christ, in fact I'd go as far as to say our corporate passions have pushed people away.
For starters, too many believers politicize church. Regardless of your political affiliation, folks on both sides have merged politics and faith. And, if you don't vote their way, you aren't voting for God's candidate. An honest survey of the Bible will quickly reveal that there weren't many Godly leaders and most of the governments listed in the Bible were not led by believers.
How does our unhealthy obsession on politics damage our testimony? Think about the strife & separation it's causing amongst believers, and then step back and think how outsiders view our insane divisiveness. We have to stop allowing our political views from spilling over into our churches, and we need to quit this fantasy that we know is best for the world when it comes to the realm of government. We can't even "govern" our congregations very well, how could we be so arrogant to think we can influence a less important organization like a temporary earthly government?
The next area we might be faltering in is our immature attachment to church-property. If you can’t imagine church without the church building, then we should stop and think. If your faith, energy, and time are consumed by a church building and your rituals are constructed around programs, you might suffer from a case of religious pietism.
The question becomes then: Are you more in love with your religion than He Who reigns -- have you become more attached to the form of your religion than He Who forms us?
But, one might think, so much good happens within this structure. Is it helpful, or is it a crutch we've become overly dependent on. The age old church battle over change is a joke. We argue over the color of the carpet while lost souls perish. We’re acting like the staff on the sinking Titanic, rearranging the deck furniture while the lifeboats remained empty.
If you can't imagine practicing the Christian faith apart from programs and parking lots or if the building dictates the majority of your decisions, there might be a problem. I know these are unpopular opinions I'm sharing, but how much longer can we continue down this path before we realize what we are doing is counterproductive?
But Craig, you are wrong! you may say. There are several churches with fabulous foyers and positive programs that are growing! Actually, what we are doing in Christianity is shuffling the deck. We've simply moved one herd from one location over into another pen, but the flock isn't expanding. What's happening? People leave one church and go to another, without any net gain for the Kingdom. Sure, maybe we are retaining Christians in the Kingdom, though that's doubtful, but are we reaching really lost people? Nope, not really, not like we should be.
What we win people with is what win them to. In other words, what we try to attract people with is what they become. If we win over their hearts with God's love and grace, then we help them to attach to Jesus. If we win people over with programs, rituals, and stained glass, then we have lost our purpose and we have missed the mark because their loyalty will last only as long as the facade we've won them to does.
The church I read about in the New Testament never got involved in politics, they didn't own church buildings -- instead they focused on being disciples sharing the story of the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus. They were Spirit led people who believed the return of Christ was eminent. And somehow, all of that was attractive to a debased culture that deified their Emperor.