Last month we started thinking about why there has been a decline in American church attendance the last few decades. In the sermon last Sunday, we heard the words of Jesus–“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2)–and we applied it to our society today: people are different now, so it’s like there’s a different kind of crop that needs harvesting. This new crop requires different harvesting methods, which the church hasn’t really learned yet.
This article lists some of the factors that have changed the crop so much:
(1) Demographics have changed: it’s not the same kind of people living in the same places/communities, and since churches are community-based, that makes a difference. (2) Technology has changed: we have different tools that let us process and interact with information differently. Yet many churches still operate like they did 50 years ago. (3) The public attention that the church gets in the media are from leaders who, frankly, give the church and the gospel of Christ a bad name, thus turning people off.
(4) Competition: there are other activities that people choose to do instead of church because they’re viewed as more entertaining or rewarding. (5) Churches succumb to the temptation of competition and try to make themselves look more cool and trendy, turning their worship services into a flashy presentation that ultimately offers little spiritual substance.
So what can we do about less people being at church to hear of God’s transforming love and to connect spiritually with the Creator? Well, I found two lists.
The first list comes from this article. (1) Don’t resist new directions or fresh expressions of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we all like what we’re already doing, but God might have better things in mind, so don’t get in the way; go with it. (2) Instead of judging people for leaving, we should evaluate ourselves for not meeting their needs. (3) Embrace diversity by opening your church doors wider, inviting all different kinds of people inside. (4) Instead of rejecting people you disagree with, work with them–as friends not enemies. The Holy Spirit’s activity at Pentecost and all through the book of Acts shows us that God is about overcoming human barriers.
The second list for helping more people enjoy the blessings of a church family comes from the book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore. It suggests “4 acts of love” for churches to remember if they are to really be the presence of Christ in the world today:
(1) Radical Hospitality – welcome everyone with love like Jesus did. (2) Fearless Conversation – talk about the hard stuff with honesty and humility. (3) Genuine Humility – confess that you don’t know everything and aren’t perfect. (4) Divine Anticipation – expect God to move through you.
I know I’ve thrown out a lot of lists, but this is an important topic, and important things require lists! (I like lists.) But what do you think? The Christian church in American (and here!) needs your help: how can we share God’s love in grace and fellowship to more people?