Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tonight... on a very special episode of Attention Span...

If you've watched even a small amount of television in your life, you realize that when the announcer begins by saying, "Tonight... on a very special episode of Punky Brewster" or "Full House" or whatever show you're watching, you know that in this episode someone is either going to a) die, b) be tempted to smoke, drink, take drugs or have sex or c) run away from home. Well, tonight nobody here is dying. There is no alcohol and there will be none of the other recreational activities here at Attention Span. That leaves us with (c).

I'm not going to talk about kids running away from home. My focus is on Christians who run away from the church. And also those who never were in the church to begin with. I'd like to know why.

I can see many, many faults and problems with the church, and I'm wondering what can be done to correct them. I'm preparing a series of posts called, "What's Wrong With Church?" and I'd like your input. Whether you love the local church or you just can't stand the church, I would like to have your answers to this question:

What are the top three problems of the local church today?

I have my own ideas, but I'd love your perspective. So please leave a comment. If you can't figure out how to comment, use my email contact link. And look for "What's Wrong With Church? - The Series" next week.


Douglas said...

Churches focus too much on marketing and focus groups, they don't fix broken people, and they don't get in the culture's face.

and then Life happened said...

Hi Ed,

I think it might be good for you to share right up front what you see-think regarding, "What's Wrong With The Church" Ed.

Also it seems that you have a predetermind view here in this thought..."My focus is on Christians who run away from the church."
Because some have and do, why not lump them all together?
As if a person has to step into trial where it is a foregone conclusion as to the out come?

I have this crazy thought it is ALL about knowing the TRUTH, not my truth vs. your (or any other brand of) truth?
Again, I thought the Truth is inseperable from His Son Christ Jesus??

Looking forward to seeing and hearing Him in one another!


Kim said...

Well, off the top of my head, I think 1) not enough expository preaching; 2) people are not committed to their local body of believers, and 3) too much entertainment mentality.

I'll be interested to see what others have to say.

Weekend Fisher said...

1. My pastor can't lead worth beans. He thinks he's a theology teacher. He doesn't even try to be a shepherd.

2. The institution (not the individual people but the institution) has no commitment to seeing its members live out godly lives. Education sure, but practicality no.

3. Lack of meaningful fellowship.

rev-ed said...

Richard, it sounds like you have some preconceived notion about what I'm going to say. ;)

Some people claim to have left the church. Others claim that the church left them. They are all "lumped together" here for illustration purposes.

You'll see my list soon enough. I don't want anyone's answers swayed by what I'm going to say... or even what they think I'm going to say!

Kristen said...

Sounds like an interesting series!

Off the top of my head:

1. False/unbiblical doctrine.
2. Focus on "growth" (numbers), performance, and programs rather than operating Biblically and as God designed the church to operate. (By the way, did you see Dan at Cerulean Sanctum's post on "Christian Excellence"?)
3. Apathy and worldliness on the part of those who call themselves Christians.

Kristen said...

I should have specified that I was thinking about the American church with my answer.

rev-ed said...

I understood that Kristen. I think we could probably say the "Western" Church. Maybe if some of the Euros drop by they could speak to their side of the Atlantic.

And yes, I reviewed Dan's series again this morning. Some good points. And you're pretty close to my top three, although I'm not sure I'm going to limit mine to three!

julie said...

Having become a follower of Jesus as an adult, I think I can speak to why some people never were in church to begin with.
Why would they? Their perception is that the church is primarily about social conformity. Who wants that? The church is not known for doing anything of real value.

Current position: What's wrong with the church? Most of what most churches do is about greasing the wheels of the machine. They don't do anything larger than themselves or attempt to impact the world in any way other than to fix themselves up a bit (quit that nagging habit, meet some nice people...).

People go to church to make themselves feel better. There is typically no connection to a real, larger-than-life God, over whom we have no control, and who expects our obedience.
(All this based on past, not present experience.)

People in churches donn the judges robe, far too readily.

These are off the top of my head...I'm sure there's lots more.

I look forward to the series!

Jennifer said...

If I hadn't found my current church two years ago, I would be churchless. I grew up in church, and every single one I went to was more of the same: bureaucratic, head-in-the-sand, snobbery. People were not interested in reaching out to the world, only adding to their membership rolls (and coffers). I also think there are way too many pastors out there who see their job as CEO of a corporation, not a shepherd, and therefore people are spiritually dying. Too often, the answer suggested for every given problem is "pray and read your Bible". People need more than that. They need help living their day to day lives.

Chris said...

Hi Ed -- great topic! (and one I relate to well).

Let's see... the list is long here:

1. Does church offer an authentic worship experience? If that's all it offers, that's like empty calories. Feels good going down, but you feel like something is missing. Today churches seem to generally lack the will to benefit anyone outside their sphere of members. It's a support group, nothing more, wrapped around Jesus for packaging.

2. Authoritarian-based "Bible believing" churches are just plain scary. Give anyone that kind of power, unchecked, and suddenly the Bible is twisted to mean whatever the leader wants it to mean. Most of the sincere honest believers will follow along. Though there is supposedly "growth" in several such churches (over the mainstream denominations steeped in their own rituals and beaurocracies), it won't last, in my opinion. They seem to swell based on the charisma of their pastor, and then tear themselves apart and split. That's what I've seen over and over again. The result? People get hurt, and decide to give up on church altogether.

3. Business minded churches formalize religion to a bottom-line that suits their own needs. That's already been mentioned by others.

4. A church that does not seek to allow each member perform service using their greatest gifts to meet the greatest need is missing opportunity, but they're also turning away talent. It's usually because of power struggles for recognition... it all falls back to the reliance on power and authority, not on God, but on the people running the church. I prefer a church run by a hundred committees than a church run by a single person calling all the shots.

5. A church that caters to the money-holding members over the "least among these" is also worshiping the wrong god. That goes also for a church that does not provide well for the spiritual growth of its youth. A church that reaches out to its youth (like mine used to) is one that produces future leaders and the next generation of Christ followers.

6. Niche churches (ones that advocate that they're all about "healing" or "praising") invariably leave people behind. A church should try to be all things to all people! Music is good, but it's not good to the exclusing of outreach. Outreach is good, but not if the Church is neglecting it's own youth group. Youth group support is good, but not if it's in favor of supporting the elderly members of the church. Everyone counts, and a good church will reach out in ways that try to (emphasize "try") leave nobody behind.

7. Churches that emphasize "unessentials" of Christianity (like overstating the importance of total immersion baptism as a means of salvation, for instance) will lose members who realize they're caught up in their own religion so much that Jesus gets lost in the shuffle.

I could go on and on, I suppose. I have not found the perfect church yet. I thought I had, and for several years everyting worked perfectly (to my amazement), then a new pastor came, and it all went to hell in a handbasket. People turned against each other, it was a mess. Again...if a church's success or failure depends on a few individuals, the church is only as strong as those individuals. What a shame not to use the entire Body of Christ the way it was meant to be used.

(sorry for the long comment, Ed.... you inspired me with a near-and-dear topic of interest of mine).

John said...

What Kristen said. Pretty much the same order, too.

Jennifer said...

Punky Brewster and Full House???? Dude, you are like so old.

John B said...

Not to be overly critical but one of the chief things I think is wrong with the church, is we spend way too much time thinking and talking about what's wrong with the church.

This is not to deny that there are problems in the church, I could easily come up with a whole list of things. And I've certainly done more than my share of pointing these problems out.

However, in my heart I believe that for any organization to flourish, the focus must be on what's right. Remember what Paul said, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Phil. 4:8 (TNIV)

Ed, after you've completed your series on what's wrong with the church, I hope you'll do a series on what is right.

Grace and Peace,

rev-ed said...

John, I think you'll be pleased with the series overall. The thing is that there are a startling number of people who don't feel the need to be a part of a church for one reason or another. Sure, some may be looking for more than any group of humans can ever deliver, but they have valid points as well.

kpjara said...

Based on my own experience, church has become a building, a place, not a way of life.

I agree with others, the focus is largely on numbers and desire to please the masses.

Sometimes it feels like Jesus gets left out on the front steps.

Melanie Morales said...

1. Too many in the congregation wrapped on how church "looks" to others rather than how it makes others "feel." FYI: If you're doing church right, others will feel the love and acceptance that Christ has for them.

2. Not enough members willing to "get real." IE: It's hard to relate to the Sunday-dressed Mel as opposed to the regular, everyday Mel.

3. Ministry is more inward focused - how to minister to members rather than an outreach focus - getting out into the community.

and then Life happened said...

Hi Ed,

Here is an excerpt from an article that fits into this topic, by Wayne Jacobson. "The Real Question"



"Why are so many Christians growing disillusioned with the congregational experience? There are many reasons. Here are some I’ve heard over and over:

We’re bored. Sitting through the same tired ritual every week, or listening to the same voice has dulled our spiritual passions rather than excited them.
We felt disconnected. Sitting in rooms full of strangers on Sunday morning watching the same stage does not build the relationships among believers we desire.
We are tired of seeing people blasted with guilt and religious obligation. While it may press people to conform to the needs of the institution, it only distances them from a Father who loves them more than they know.
We got sick of the political games played behind the scenes to serve someone’s ego or put institutional priorities above the purpose of Jesus.
Some of us didn’t leave, we were pushed aside by those who disliked the questions we raised, the clothes we wore or the truths we struggled with.
We found that they reinforced the wrong things, encouraging us to pretend instead of being real, encouraging us to exploit people rather than serve them.
We found out that the Gospel was so mixed with performance-based religion that the life of the Jesus had been swallowed up by our busyness.
And yes, some have left because of the emptiness of religion and have abandoned Jesus altogether and no longer believe that Scripture speaks the truth. That’s what many of us hate most about religion. It makes promises it can’t keep and then makes people question whether or not God is real at all.

Most likely none of these things adequately describes any one person’s story, but rather it would be found in a mixture of them. And we realize not all congregations fall to such blatant abuses. But most of us hoped it could change, labored tirelessly in hopes that it would, tried other congregations we thought were better, and have only found themselves outside of it when those inside couldn’t respect the journey we are on."

rev-ed said...

Thanks Richard. Some valid points there. And I think you'll find that I have great compassion for those who feel let down by the church and lost trying to find a good one. Where I don't have as much compassion is with those who think that they can fly solo and do better than with loving brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Anonymous said...

While functioning as a member of a discrete group of Christians known as clergy (who, arguably, have vested interests which can be distinguished from those of Christians in general), you raise the question/issue of " . . . Christians who run away from the church [emphasis mine]. And also those who never were in the church to begin with. I'd like to know why. I can see many, many faults and problems with the church, and I'm wondering what can be done to correct them."

Is Christ alive and well ? Does Christ actively rule his Church-- or is He on leave ? Do his people hear his voice ? People can give you all the 'answers' you want (and feel empowered to act upon), but 'the answer' to the 'problem' of church flight does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God. . . . Still, apart from that, I suppose you could find a way for some to listen to you. Hey, it seems that you own the pulpit. . . go for it ! He would be a fool who would argue with you.

rev-ed said...

anonymous, it's a shame you don't see fit to reveal yourself. Ordinarily I don't bother with comments from a person who cannot at least identify himself/herself with a nickname, but it your case I'll make the exception.

but 'the answer' to the 'problem' of church flight does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God.

Sorry, but I reject the idea that God is leading anyone to stay away from the church. If you can give Biblical evidence to the contrary, I'd love to see it. Instead of leveling charges against me, how about giving an answer as to why you or anyone else would reject the idea of assembling with other believers in a local church. The problem with "church flight" is that in most cases it is also "God flight" and we should both agree that this is a problem.

C'mon back and discuss. And at least make up a name for yourself. :)

Diane said...

We went through a difficult time in our church recently and lost many members. Of the ones I spoke to their complaint was, "I'm not being fed."

I see a very selfish nature in church goers. What's in it for me?

Where is the body? Why aren't we execising our gifts? I see a lot of spectators expecting perfection of their pastor...he has to be the perfect preacher, teacher, leader, administrator, shepherd...
Where are the deacons, trustees, members?

Okay, I'll stop but I think it comes down to selfishness.

Catharine said...

I left the Church (and, now that you mention it, I was running) two years ago. It wasn't about being fed or being loved. My home church was very loving and supportive. My crisis of faith was in believing in a religion where such a huge population of the practitioners wholly and completely ignored their Savior's call to mercy, nonjudgement, tolerance and love, in order to continue their petty little hate-mongering and fascist ideology.

I felt that, if I were to continue my association wtih such an organization, I would be complicit in the furtherance of such evil. I don't "hate fags," I don't believe that God intends for women to be subordinate to men, I don't believe that God has ordained the upper-middle-class white guy as arbiter of all things Christian.

Being a former history major I can tell you with 100% certainty that, despite with teh President of the United States tells you, this country was not founded by Christianity or on Christian principles, but was in fact, founded by a handful of men who referred to themselves as Deists. Full stop. End of story. They weren't Christians. Get over it.

So American, contrary to current public opinion, is not a Christian nation. It is a nation built on the premise that there be no national or state religion, and that, regardless of how the majority worships, every person living under the aegis of this great country and her miraculous Constitution should be free to do so in peace, tolerance and acceptance. It is nothing less than your Messiah preached 2000 years ago. Yet so very, very few Christians see their way clear to live in that.

I left the Church -- running -- because I knew that if I spent one more minute there, supporting a system which was turning my beloved democratic republic into a theocratic autocracy, which I find repugnant and despicable on every level, I would be suborning that action -- upholding it -- giving comfort to it.

My soul and my conscience simply could not allow it. I have since turned to Deism myself, in a attempt to retreat to the teachings of the men who created this great country -- Jefferson, Paine, Franklin, Washington.

And -- I mean this with the utmost sincerity without a hint of sarcasm -- thank you for asking. No one in the Church ever has.