One of the more popular laments these days is that the country or culture or society or people just aren’t as good as they used to be. You’ll hear it in the breakroom, at the barbershop, and in the corner convenience store. You’ll hear it from people ranging from “rational concerned citizen” to “mental conspiracy theorist.”
The details can vary, but the basic argument is that things today are not as good as “the good ol’ days.” There’s usually a line like, “People these days just don’t ________ like they used to.” A prevailing 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 since the 1950s, and falling drastically since the ’90s.
Dropping church attendance has led many churches and ministers to freak out. They continually worry about what clever fancy things they can do to attract new people and keep current people. But one Baptist pastor in Texas warns that doing this “focuses ministry away from helping people find their way toward God and onto accommodation. It makes us ask ‘why are people leaving and what can we do to get them back?’ The problem with that is it can make church conform to the culture.”
Letting our church’s actions and attitudes be dictated by culture–what’s hot, what’s popular–is a very bad idea. We would turn into a combination of a rock concert and reality show. Instead, we should think about the way we communicate/show the love of God, and ask if we could improve it so more people could understand it better. Like, since I don’t speak Portuguese, if you explained something to me in Portuguese, I’m not going to understand. You need to speak in a way that I can understand, that connects with my life.
Instead of just complaining that people “these days” don’t go to church, we should be thinking about how church can more adequately love and help people these days. It’s not that people are less spiritual–quite the contrary–they just don’t think church is the best place to explore their spirituality. That’s a key problem.
A United Church of Christ pastor works with the Convergence Movement to do just that, and he says, “I don’t think people are losing faith. Church has become the last place where people assume they can find a spiritual path–and it needs to be the first.”
That’s what we need to change. How can we help people know that Hickory Rock is a wonderful place for them to walk their spiritual path?
It reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 9:37, “The harvest is plentiful.” If the harvest isn’t what we’re used to, or we don’t know how to nurture it yet, that just means we need to be creative in demonstrating God’s love and the way of Jesus in new ways.