I was troubled to learn about a survey study in 2015 showing that “kids raised in religious homes were less generous and kind than those raised in non-religious homes.” They “tended to be more judgmental, less altruistic, and more punitive than kids raised without religion.” Yikes!
The truth of Genesis 1:27 is that we are made “in the image of God.” We forget that sometimes, so it’s good to remind ourselves: we are made in the image of God. (Even early on a Monday morning, if you can believe it.) What we forget even more often, and in fact rarely ever think about at all, is that everybody else is made in the image of God too. So what difference should that make? Well, a lot, actually.
One of the more popular laments these days is that the country/culture/society/people just aren’t as good as they used to be. There’s usually a line like, “People these days just don’t ________ like they used to.” One example among Christians is, “People don’t go to church like they used to.” Whether you think the way society has changed is good or bad, what isn’t debatable is that church attendance in America has indeed been declining drastically since the ’90s. Should that bother us? And if so, how?
Sermons are nice but not near as important as the things people share with each other during regular times of life, in the middle of the day, sitting at work, or visiting at home. Some of those listeners will never walk into a church, so the words they hear about how God loves them, coming from their friends and neighbors, are the most important words that they will hear. That means you’ve got a big job to do!
A recent psychological study suggests that people “who are more actively religious are more likely to report low levels of anxiety, depression, and fatigue–and feel that they cope with stress better and that their lives have meaning.” This is one of those things that church-goers have known for a long time, but it’s just nice to have scientific proof of now. It supports a ministry motto I like to use: “Church is good for the soul.”
What would you say if someone asked, “I get why you’re into ‘being spiritual’ and ‘helping people’ and everything, but why bother with Church? Do you really think you need it?” If churches are just places that organize service projects, have book clubs, host fun dinners, and offer support groups, and since you can find all that through other places, then why bother with church at all? Good question. (The short answer is: it helps you remember what you need to know.)
Folks who go to church all the time their whole life will be fluent in churchy lingo, but others won’t be, so we don’t want to use insider language they don’t understand, especially if it sends a wrong message. New perspectives are very helpful, because they force us not to use hollow language just by habit. Is there a better way we can talk about issues of faith? The main thing young adults don’t like is hollow clichés. So here is a helpful list (I love lists!) of “churchy phrases that are scaring off millennials.”
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.
One young adult Christian laments, “The most frustrating part of being a Millennial is that my church does not understand me.” Yikes! Is it even possible to understand them? (Hint: Yes! And we’re in a good position to do it.)
There’s a new book out called Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore. It examines why average church attendance in America has been continually dropping for decades. So what can we do about it? Should it bother us? And how can we make our church one that is alive with the Holy Spirit?