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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, January 12, 2015

So you don't go to church...I'm not sure God's too concerned.

Facebook tells me I have 283 friends. (That includes--at least--one bar no longer in business.) All my friends know I am a pastor and work for God and congregations. But not all my friends go to church. Some aren't interested. Some aren't Christian. Some don't believe. Some believe, but don't really like to go to church. My friends, it turns out, do not have to go to church in order to be my friends. When it comes to friendship, going to church is not the defining characteristic.

What if friendship with Jesus also does not have going to church as a defining characteristic? Now, I know there are a lot of people who make a lot of money from people who go to church, and I am sure they want to convince people that Jesus "really wants you to go to church" because that keeps their business going. But, if all you want is friendship with Jesus, going to church may not be a requirement for that friendship.

 So we are in another run of "why people DON"T go to church" times, and everyone seems to know why people don't go to church. It's the music is too boring. (Lame, more like it.) The preaching too disconnected from....(insert favorite pop pysch term here). Pastors don't get out of their offices enough. (Or they spend too much time on Facebook and not in the office). People don't like to be told what to do. The reasons are endless for why people don't go to church. The interesting question is rather: why does anyone GO to church?

I mean, why are there countless Christian congregations across this country that have lots of old people who attend them? What do Senior Citizens get out of church that younger folks don't even try for in their experience? I did my first work with a Christian congregation in 1982. The pastor told me then that they had too many old people and not enough young people. Guess what? The congregation is still around, and according to their records, they have about the same amount of people in worship in 2014 as they did in 1982. (For those math-challenged that's 32 years.) Am I to believe the 70 year olds from 1982 are the 102 year olds in 2014? There may be a few, but they didn't all make it. So where were all the 70 year olds back in 1982? How did they get to this congregation in 2014?

People go to church for one reason, and one reason only (admittedly there are variations on this theme): people go to church to connect with someone or something Holy. It may be God, it may be a religious leader, it may be music, it may a liturgy, it may be a book. Doesn't matter, it's why people go to church. Congregations are where humans connect with the divine, connect with the Holy.

So, if you go to church where do you find the Holy? For those of you who don't go to church, where do you find the Holy? For those of you who don't care, why don't you care about the Holy? Relating to the Holy is not a skill of youth. It takes patience, wisdom, and the ability to live outside of your own ego (not traits generally associated with youth--and youth who do those things are often called "Old Souls" for a reason.)

So if people aren't going to your church it's because they don't find the Holy there. Is your congregation connecting with the Holy? How and why and where and when? Maybe you connect with the Holy in a way most others do not? Maybe you have a very specific way of connecting to the Holy and others can't track that way? And there are always people who don't have the time, effort, or desire to connect with the Holy no matter how your congregation does it. But the reason people don't come to your church is that they don't find a way to connect with the Holy there.

(I remember a man who told me he couldn't worship at our congregation because we took God seriously. He told me he couldn't risk it that God might take us seriously too, and he'd have to sell his yacht. He wasn't ready for that just yet.) Come all without. Come all within!

When I work with congregations we do not spend one minute of our time worrying or wondering why people don't come to our church. Rather, we spend out time focusing on why we do come, and how we can share that with others. Focusing on why you actually show up at church is way more beneficial than wondering about those who don't.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

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