This week has revealed some startling new findings concerning the sociological landscape of America concerning faith.
Several writers rushed to the blogosphere to spin the results their way. Ed Stetzer and Russell Moore both tried their best to hurl cold water on the hot coals of worry. But the facts are the facts. Christianity is on the decline in America today.
But guess what? THE WORLD ISNT ENDING, at least not yet.
THREE WAYS TO APPROACH THE RESEARCH
1. Ask real questions
So many people I talked with yesterday were trying to discredit the reports. “Who did they survey?” Or “they didn’t come to my town!”
I just sat back and took it all in, until I heard someone say, “Those people are just left leaning liberals,” and then I had to engage.
When are we going to stop labeling our problems on someone else who may see the world a different way? When are we going to take responsibility for facts, instead of trying to spin information to look favorably on our own story? When are we going to ask the real questions?
Why are Millenials dissatisfied with your church? Is it because of them? It is it because of YOU!!
It takes a mature person to look deep inside himself and admit something needs to change.
If we want to actually do something about these numbers, then we need to start asking real honest questions. At some point we have to stop blaming the boogie man and start taking responsibility.
2. We need to be honest
When we ask real questions, we need to be honest with real answers. Maybe it’s time to re-invent what church looks like. Maybe it’s time to wrestle with culture issues within the context of culture, instead of trying to distance ourselves from the ideas that are uncomfortable. Maybe we need more tradition and liturgy. Or maybe we just need to sit and listen to the needs our young people are screaming for-and address those.
I’m sorry to say, but the students I work with often complain about a void of people willing to answer difficult spiritual questions. Why do bad things happen if God is so good? How do we incorporate faith in daily life? And the kicker right now – what am I supposed to do with Gay Marriage and my faith?
For some, those may seem like simple answers, but for most; these are the questions young adults are begging to have answers for.
Let’s be honest with them. Stop hiding behind tradition and organizational mantra, and start helping these students explore the world through the lenses of their faith.
3. Excellence in all things.
The church has a modern reputation for being lazy, and running on a shoestring budget. Not all churches are this way, but a lot are.
If we don’t look at our faith meetings with the same sense of excellence we see our businesses, it’s no wonder people don’t want to come and explore. I don’t want to go to an amusement park in the middle of no-where with lame characters. I want to go to Disney. (Not that church needs to entertain, but rather; cultivate a sense of excellence in all things.)
We need to take serious the spiritual nurturing of people in our community. Relationships are key to helping people understand how and why we do what we do. And when I invite my friends to come to church, I don’t want to have to apologize for the lack of effort, detail, or professionalism.
We’re serving God, for goodness sake. Let’s offer up our best.
All in all, I’m not too concerned the number of people claiming to be Christians is falling. I didn’t decide to follow Jesus because everyone around me did. (A topic for another blog post on Youth Groups and the Peer Pressure if Salvation)
I decided to follow Jesus because it is the most compelling story of life. It gives hope where there is no hope. Jesus gives answers to problems our world faces today, not just 2000 years ago. And ultimately Jesus’ message was one of reconciliation with God and Man.
To this end…
When I hear of people leaving a certain trend in lieu of another, I’m always anxious to figure out “why?” Is it because we’re just trying to fake our way through a tradition? Or is it because we’re not honest with ourselves? Or maybe it’s just a plain disclaimer that most people would rather be in an environment of excellence, instead of trying to “play” church?
I don’t know the answer…but I’m sure you do. What do you think?