A friend posted the following article on Facebook and the title caught my attention:
It’s a super great article on why some people, especially younger people, are not going to church. At the end there are four great points on what people are actually looking for.
This brings to mind a few things for me. First, what we measure matters. The article is really good at pointing out that attendance is an outdated metric. I agree with this. I agree with it in a very public sense. How does showing how many people had their butts in the pews for an hour on Sunday equate to discipleship, or spreading the Gospel, or living out what Jesus has given us strength to do out in the world? It’s more of an organizational metric than a mission oriented metric.
Second, our society is changing and has changed. Holding on to doing church the way it has always been done is not a way to stay relevant. Let me be clear, I’m not against church, or the ordo, or sacraments, or preaching. I wouldn’t be a seminarian looking forward to being a pastor in a liturgical oriented church if I was opposed to those things.
What I am saying is that how those things are used to connect people with God may need some alteration in many churches. I’ve been to churches who do these things very well in ways that connect people and help people to focus on their relationship with God. It can be done and done well. We live in a society where people expect to participate, not be told. Personally, I’m super excited about this. It means that we get to actually live out the true meaning of liturgy – “the work of the people.” What’s not to love about that?
People desire to know about God and to know God. They are searching. Churches have a unique opportunity to help people in that search and share the promises of God that have been revealed to us. Churches have a unique opportunity to create a community of people who can talk about God, spiritual things people care about, learn about God, see how God is active in the world, and experience God’s grace, among other things.
But this requires thinking differently about church. It requires thinking differently about who a pastor is and that person’s role and responsibilities are. It requires a church to communicate with people where they are and in ways they want to be communicated with. And communication is a two-way street not a bullhorn directed at people.
It requires churches to be a community, not just another organization trying to sell a product or demand loyalty. It requires a lot of things. The churches that will stay relevant and thrive will stay attached to the core of their reason for existence and will be open to changing how they do church without changing what church is. The churches that attach themselves to other stuff that symbolize the importance of the organization will eventually die out or fade away.