"The Christian world is in a deep sleep. Nothing but a loud voice can waken them out of it!" George Whitefield, 1739
According to research conducted by Joshua Packard and Ashleigh Hope, 65 million Americans, over a third of all adults in the U.S., are done with church. The same research shows that millions more, even though they occasionally fill a pew (or watch online), have one foot out the door (Church Refugees, 20).
One of the primary reasons for this rise of the NONES (those claiming they have no religious affiliation) is that what appears to be important to many churches is not important to them, and vice versa. And, by the way, these matters of importance are not regarding upholding Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life or core doctrines of the faith. These matters of church importance are relegated to programming, internal ministries, music styles, and other preferential issues.
The feedback from those exiting the Church is that Christians care far too much about worship service times, buildings, and programs and far too little about serving the poor, helping the immigrant and addressing racial injustice.
In light of recent moral failures of celebrity pastors, more critics are also addressing another issue: the more churches simply try to look like the world, the more non-Christians are wondering if the Church is really any different from the world.
One such critic, journalist Ben Sixsmith, wrote an article recently where he addressed “The Sad Irony of Celebrity Pastors.” His closing paragraph should cause us all to pause:
I am not religious, so it is not my place to dictate to Christians what they should and
should not believe. Still, if someone has a faith worth following, I feel that their beliefs
should make me feel uncomfortable for not doing so. If they share 90 percent of my
lifestyle and values, then there is nothing especially inspiring about them. Instead of
making me want to become more like them, it looks very much as if they want to
become more like me (“The Spectator”).
What do we do with this? We wake up. “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” Ephesians 5:14. We get back to the basics. We practice “The Jesus Way” (Eugene Peterson). We make sure our walk matches our talk, “so that our daily life may win the respect of outsiders” (1 Thessalonians 4:12, NIV).
This Christmas, we have an opportunity to do just that. In a season where many feel hopeless, we can offer them hope. We can provide food and gifts. We can volunteer and serve (e91church.com/events). We can share words of kindness and hope. And we can tell people that even though we aren’t perfect, and we don’t have it all figured out, Jesus has changed our lives and given us the hope of heaven and the hope for renewed strength today.
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6, NIV).