Christianity was supposed to be about becoming like Jesus. We went in the wrong direction.
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What’s Wong with Church?


One Lutheran pastor once observed that his church lost 80% of their youth. There are many reasons for declining church attendance (particularly among youth) like the decimation of families, the attraction of the world, secular education, and the influence of media. However, there are two internal problems every church should consider, denominationalism and running Christianity like a machine.

Paul spoke to the divisions (denominations) within Christianity by calling them a sign of immaturity (1 Cor 3:1-3). It might be expected that if Christians reject some error, that they might assume that they now have it “right” and form a separate group. Someone once asked if the reformers got it wrong. The answer to that was to question how likely would it be to fix all of the errors in one step.

One problem with denominations is that they usually provide a finished package of doctrine. This does two things. It can make the church member feel that there is nothing left for him to learn (and grow) as it has already been done by someone else. This can stunt Christian maturity keeping one from progressing to the stature of Christ (Eph 4:13). One quote regarding growth is: “I am embarrassed by what I thought five years ago. I hope to be embarrassed five years from now by what I know today.”

In addition to deemphasizing Christian growth, a second problem with denominations is that it is not uncommon for criteria (baptism, communion, church membership, saying a prayer, really repenting, making Jesus Lord, etc.) to be established, the achievement of which will assure a place in heaven. While being saved and going to heaven are important, so are growing in faith and becoming more like Jesus.

The second problem area of churches is their mechanical nature. Scripted events and programs tend to kill the relationships that should be the core of Christianity. The hallmark of Christianity today is the Sunday sermon. The lecture / audience model is a recreation of the classroom / lecture model that most seminary students were exposed to. While many pastors struggle to make their sermons interesting, useful, and even entertaining, one might better ask if too much is being expected out of a lecture. A question and answer session might be more useful in engaging with what the congregation would like to learn.

Most pastors are in the unenviable position of having been hired to keep the “machine” running as it always has even when seeing some of what may be causing many (particularly the youth) to drop away. Some may attempt to experiment peripheral to the machine but often find that there is not the response for which they had hoped.

Ever since the industrial Revolution people have been chasing a life defined by “fast, cheap, and easy”. This is ultimately a life lived for self. Some churches try to compete in this arena by offering a sort of Christianized entertainment. The world may be able to offer entertainment, diversions, and indulgences, but it falls short in offering deep relationships. This is perhaps where churches might be able to compete.

Facebook and Twitter followers do not offer real relationships. Real relationships require the self-sacrifice of love. If churches can find a way to teach their youth to see the value of self-sacrifice, they may be able to equip their youth to resist the allure of the world which ultimately leads to selfishness and loneliness.


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