Four Things the World Needs to See from the Church (Part 1)
By Jason Koon
Why doesn’t anybody want to go to Church anymore? I hear this question with increasing frequency. In fact, it’s even the title of a recent book by Thom Schultz. We all know Church attendance is down, and we should know by now that it’s not just the Millennials who are skipping out. And now it’s becoming increasingly clear that those who have managed to hang on are doing less and are more burned out. So, what gives? Why are American Churchgoers dropping like flies?
A recent study from the Barna Group attempted to answer this question. First, they asked people why they went to Church, and overwhelmingly, American’s responded “to be closer to God” or “to learn about God.” This is encouraging; 71% of Americans are not looking for a big show, a cool rock band, a hip pastor, or a place to network, they’re looking for something Spiritual. So why are they abandoning Church? The answer is that while most Americans are looking for something spiritual, they’re not finding it at Church. Only 44% of people who attend Church every week say they regularly experience God, and these are the ones who have stayed.
This means two things. First, about 56% of the people you currently worship with are probably hanging on by a thread. And secondly, something has gone drastically wrong. I think there are several reasons for these troubling statistics and the following are four characteristics I believe the world needs to see from the Church that might help us to begin to turn these trends around. These are characteristics we saw in generations past, characteristics that are essential if we are going to see the Church impact the world with the Gospel.
Seventy-three percent of Americans identify as Christian, but only 35% attend Church regularly. Even more troubling, only 7% affirm seven basic teachings of the Christian faith, teachings like “Satan is real,” “Salvation is through grace, not works,” and “Jesus lived a sinless life.” This isn’t academic, systematic theology, this is fundamental biblical teaching, beliefs that Scripture says are necessary for salvation. In other words, chances are, when you go to Church this weekend, four out of every five people you worship with may spend eternity in hell.
As a result, the Church can’t practice what it believes anymore, because most of us don’t even know what we believe. This is causing a breakdown in integrity. The Bible speaks often about integrity. 1 Timothy 4:16 says, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Although, the original context was directed to Paul’s apostolic liaison, Timothy, the implications of this verse are the same for us. Watch your life, be careful what you do and what you don’t do. And Guard your mind against false teaching and lazy doctrine because your soul and the souls of those you love may depend on it.
There is also a promise in this verse. Paul writes that when we have integrity, when our minds, hearts, and actions line up like this then we will be a saving agent to the people around us. We wonder why nobody comes to Church? We wonder why we don’t see people saved like we did in years past? Paul has our answer. Our lives and doctrine have gotten away from us. If we’re going to see the Church impact the world for the gospel, we’re going to have to understand and live out the faith we profess.