There’s been a lot of talk lately about the changing demographic of the church and the changing demographics of the USA. We hear about the “nones” – the growing number of people who are marking their religion as “none” on surveys. We hear about how only 9% of Christians in America believe things like “Jesus led a perfectly sinless life” or “the bible is normative.” We hear about how Churches that have been around for ages are in decline and may not see out the decade.
And we hear people saying, and saying it often, “how do we fix it?”
The problem with the question is that it is a question with an incorrect assumption. The assumption is that there is something wrong with the way we do church. I can’t say for sure, maybe there is something wrong with the way we do church, but I’m reasonably certain that the problem is not in the worship set. I mean, do you honestly believe a drum set and some cool lights are going to turn things around in America? Is that really all it’s going to take? Or are you the kind of person who says “We need to step away from mega churches and work on a deeper, personal level” ?
If you honestly think that the lowering number of believers in the United States is due to something going on in the church, I tell you right now you are wrong. Period. Flat out.
I know this because I had dinner last night with someone I consider a good friend. He was raised in the church, his kids are baptized, he can recite the creeds and the doctrine, but he is not currently active in any church. He doesn’t even show up to a particular church on any given Sunday and he told me why: the people are too obviously afraid.
Christians are afraid. They are afraid of Hell; they are afraid of the decline of their church; they are afraid of death; they are afraid of being forgotten, of being insignificant. They are afraid of the very statistics that should be galvanizing them.
The problem is not with the church. The problem is with the people. Christ said “they will know you by the love you have for one another” and instead the Christian is known by his or her fear. The solution then is not a new program or some kind of institutional change. The solution is in you and me. We have to take a good hard look at ourselves and ask “how much are my problems reflecting on Jesus?”. The answer that I found was humbling.