Christianity was supposed to be about becoming like Jesus. We went in the wrong direction.
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Church Attendance


A recent survey of 17,000 people in the US showed only 49% of Americans attended church services with any degree of regularity. South Dakota showed a better than average attendance rate of around 55%. However, one can see that regardless of the region, the decrease in church attendance is reflective of a larger disinterest in the things of God.

Most church services are reflective of what the Catholic tradition established. While the “mass” may not be performed in protestant churches, the pattern of a pastor (priest) giving a lecture is common. There can be varying degrees of ritual and sacraments, but by and large most denominational tradition involve driving to a service and singing and getting a lecture.

Many programs of church growth are marketed advocating elements that appeal to a consumer culture such as coffee bars, rock music, and even social activism. However, many pursuing these paths often fail to consider that a worldly appeal to the flesh can actually inhibit Christianity (1Cor 1:17, 1 John 2:16)). Perhaps some of the attendance decrease can be attributed to poorly executed attempts to imitate the world.

We can get a few glimpses of the early church in the New Testament. Paul in addressing the chaos in the Corinthian church adds that women should be silent in church. Today this is almost universally seen as an attack on women rather than an appeal to order. His implication is more a rebuke to men for failing in their role to be teachers in the home. Often missed is the implication that the church service was interactive with question asking rather than a simple lecture format.

As typical church services turned from instructing Christians in how to grow in Christ likeness, they became less useful to adults. Perhaps their greatest contribution was Sunday schools where children could be introduced to Jesus and the gospel. However, children who fail to grow in faith often live worldly lives that also come to see little value in continued church attendance. One Lutheran pastor once told me that they lost 80% of their youth.

Most people receive their faith from their parents as a tradition. However, others can come by seeking and questioning. Martin Luther is an example of one who questioned. There can be a degree of animosity by traditionalists against seekers because those who question can be seen as attacking an established tradition. As a result, many (even those raised in a articular tradition) who question can feel unwelcome attending a church.

In a consumer society, Christianity in general seems to offer little of interest. Children raised in a church tradition often see little value as they grow older. Those who question can be made to feel unwelcome. In addition, Satan has set the course of the world (Eph 2:2) to make secularism into an alternative religion that appeals to comfort, ease, and pleasure. This new “religion” is based on doctrines such as evolution (there is no God), psychology (whatever you do to feel good is OK), relativism (there is no right or wrong), and the idea that “truth” is whatever you need to get what you want.

Churches of any type can have problems with personalities, doctrines, and structure. Perhaps least appreciated is structure. Run as an organizational system, a church may function with events, activities, classes, services and programs in a mechanical way that actually hinders the relational connections with others.

Perhaps the decline of church attendance is a good thing if it separates wheat from chaff. However, we should be prepared for increasing hostility toward those of us who desire to remain faithful to our Savior.



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