My son’s girlfriend’s pastor blogged this question and my son pointed me to it as something that might interest me. It did. Within an hour I had assembled these theses and I felt I should nail them up somewhere:
My sequence below is: First a summary statement that could have a five page explanation, then a “so” = consequence/result, and a “fix” = ideas for correcting and then the statement repeated in the fewest words possible.
1. God and Jesus have been about re-establishing relationship/connection by clearing everything that had been an obstacle, not about creating a group of people who would be obedient so God would like them and make them a select bunch of groupies in a safe clubhouse. Yet the second is what the church often acts like.
so: people outside the clubhouse don’t know how to even begin establishing a relationship with God and Jesus
fix: Drop obedience emphasis. Return to emphasis on God’s invitation and clearing all obstacles.
Graced Relationship not Obedience earning Favour.
2. Jesus started the church (gathering of followers) as a movement or living flexible organism and it has become a less-than-flexible institution.
so: — in an era where all institutions are suspect the church feels the consequences
fix: — go organic, organismic, go light on institutional constraints.
Living, Spirited body, not fixed institution.
3. The organism (body of Christ) is intended for flawed people who know it, but has become a place to perfectly pretend to be flawed while promoting and pursuing perfect obedience.
so: — flawed people outside of it see no need for it. A 12 step group is more honest than the church.
fix: — “A spirituality of Imperfection” is needed. Also, learn from 12 step groups (their principles are rooted in the same bible).
Flawed only need apply, perfect go elsewhere.
4. Jesus’ aim and intention was “let’s get Heaven into some souls” (“a new Spirit” within you) but the church institute has made that “Gotta get souls a ticket to Heaven”
so: — the church is (rightly) seen as out of touch and irrelevant, and/or “being saved” is seen as a mere insurance policy
fix: — show how “the Kingdom is: near, within, at hand, imminent, right now” and drop the dualistic escapist focus.
Engage not Escape
5. The “forbidden fruit” was the belief we humans could know how to tell good and evil apart. The institutional church still eats that fruit.
so: — Duh! Fruit poisoning. Judgement, even if hidden or disguised.
fix: — leave that to God, as God intended in the first place.
Drop forbidden fruit, eat from Tree of Life.
6. When a relationship with God is beginning, the church wants to see it expressed in antiquated ways rather than letting fresh cultural adoration forms take shape.
so: — people believe church is about conforming to ancient secret handshake rituals and stale cultural expressions. ie dull.
fix: — recognize that there is no “Christian culture” except one that lets a follower of Jesus express their love in cultural forms that work for them.
Always Remorphing and reforming (as fast at the culture)
7. Until fairly recently church buidlings (and some of their rituals) were designed just like courtrooms and lecture halls.
so: — people believed the pastor was a judge (so did/do pastors) or an academic lecturer or both.
fix: — buildings are part of the rigid institution problem. A ‘theatre’ design is better but still binding.
Toss the bricks and mortar.
8. Remember that time on the playground when you either first used “no more joiners” or heard it said to you? It’s a natural ‘close the group so we can feel special’ instinct we ‘speak’ without knowing it using body language and other subtle expressions.
so: — even though we tell people where the coffee is, they don’t really feel part of the church.
fix: — an almost desperate ‘lets find joiners’ attitude (might require letting go of connections with the already joined) and the practice of a deeper relational intimacy
Deep not surface
9. The church has had social power for a few centuries, and still lives with an attitude of “let them come to us”
so: — they wring their hands when people don’t come, and won’t admit that almost no one comes to a new relationship with God in what we call a church service, and they don’t know how to adjust to an environment where cooercion doesn’t work so well anymore.
fix: — find ways of going out and making connections that introduce people to relationship with God thru Jesus.
From “come and see to go and be” (that’s the title of a book)
So those are a few of my immediate response shooting-from-the-fingertip ideas that answer why people don’t “go to church.” Going to church and the expectation that people go there are concepts from a bygone era, and we better be working hard at self examination as “churchy” folk to adapt to this new reality and not blame the people who are not coming.