I am thinking that God is not dead, but a lot of Believers are… if they can be found. Where, oh where are the Believers?
We have been visiting local churches since we first moved here in May. In the churches we have visited we have found friendly, loving, sincere Christians. We have also sat in sanctuaries that judging by the number of seats and size of building, not even one-fourth of the place is filled. Empty, echoing hallways, cleared out classrooms, and over half of the attendees are elderly. There are a few middle-aged people, a couple of families, and virtually no young people or young adults. Where are the people? Where have they gone? Judging from the square footage, classrooms, and expensive construction materials used, these churches must have been thriving and bursting at the seams. At one time–maybe for years– these must have been vibrant churches with toddlers and babies, growing families, retired couples, oldsters! On Sundays, the folks must have poured out of these churches… where are the replacements? What are people doing on Sundays if they are not in church? Why are other pursuits more fun, more important, more exciting than church?
I realize the answer to this is not simple. The world has been drifting away from God for various reasons, and just because you’re not in a church building on Sunday does not mean you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. So what is it about “church” that is found to be uninviting, irrelevant, so boring? So unimportant that believers aren’t interested enough to even attend? I understand that God is not running a popularity contest, nor should Christians expect to be entertained, but what can be done differently to make our faith real? I think many have found faith to be more real and relevant outside of a building. I sometimes think huge church buildings in disrepair should be scrapped… why can’t small meeting places be rented? Or meet in homes, or meet outside during nice weather? Why can’t it be simple and invigorating to just be with other believers?
We visited a sparsely attended church this morning. I counted 21 people. The pastor said, many are sick, some are traveling, and he doesn’t know where the others are. There were honest and friendly Christians there, but I could hardly stay awake during the sermon. I asked my husband, “Do you think the pastor goes home, throws open his front door and screams to his wife, “I can’t stand this anymore!” “I’m sick of this rut!” “I simply cannot come up with another sermon!” ?” We stand and sing. We sit down and listen. The pastor talks. We leave. It’s a dying church! The people are gone!
Don’t you think we need to “do” church differently? Don’t you think it could be easy to be the church to the world? Maybe do away with a pastor and just Christians meet or call one another up on the phone and say, “hey, let’s go minister to ____ by doing ____!” Don’t you think this could be exciting, meaningful, helpful, and a learning and teaching moment at the same time? Do away with a building that needs repair, do away with committees, do away with boredom and indifference? Serving God by serving others might bring more of the lost to Him than inviting people to come to a building.
Oh sure, all sorts of holes can be shot through my ideas, I’m aware of that–blast away, I’ll listen. I like what one pastor said when we visited his church, he said, “This is not your “normal” church!” I liked that. I like that the service was less structured, more open, a person could share a verse or thought during the service, the pastor was open to some one else sharing what God had taught them or showed them that week. It wasn’t a free-for-all, but it was a lot free-er than a traditional church. I think church needs to be a place we look forward to going to, some place that we don’t want to stay away from for fear of losing out on some revelation from God’s Word that we could have learned and applied to our life–pertaining to past mistakes, present issues, or future concerns.
I just simply think church could be simple. I think we’d like it more, I think we’d be more effective in the world. I think more Believers would come out of the woodwork. And while I’m at it, I think the nit-picking and dissecting of other’s beliefs should end–I’m weary of it. I’m speaking of Christians here–Bible believing, Jesus Christ worshipping, Thief On the Cross saved by faith –not by works faith– You’ll Be With Me in Paradise faith. What must one do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Simple. You don’t need to do anything else, add anything else. Let’s quit worrying about what others believe and worry about our own walk–God can work with them just as well as He can work with us. And that’s simply all I have to say about that, at least for now.
The photo above: This little country church: The people died, the people moved to town. No one left to go to church.