I was at a conference this past weekend and one of the speakers made the following statement: “Last year, 150,000 people left the Presbyterian Church (USA) because they had decided not to attend church any longer.”
I usually hear stories about people who move from one church to the other.
Hearing that people are simply quitting church struck a raw nerve.
In the last couple of decades, the church has gotten real good at niche marketing. There are churches for almost every taste, style and theology out there.
If you look long enough, you can find a church specifically tailored to your personality and desires.
Why are people quitting?
In September, DOOR will be receiving a new class of Dwellers. These are young adults who spend a year living, working and serving in one of our DOOR locations. One of the more difficult issues that these Dwellers deal with every year is finding a “home church.”
These young adults are committed to their faith. They are seriously considering full-time vocational ministry. They are just not sure where or how the church fits into all of this.
This leads to frustration on my part.
There are so many options for church.
Why do they have to complain?
If they would just get involved, they could be a part of the solution.
Is it possible people have become cynical with the fragmentation and specialization of the church? We have liberal and conservative churches, emerging and traditional churches, non-denominational and mainline churches, those that sing hymns and those who sing choruses.
Is it possible that the niche marketing that draws some has repelled others? Is the church too fragmented and specialized?
In my seminarian days, I read about the “homogeneous unit principle”—that church functions best when people who look the same, worship the same, believe the same and live the same all worship together.
Is it possible that a generation of people has emerged having little interest in sameness?
It was Jesus who prayed in John 17 that we, followers of Jesus, would be one.
I am a Mennonite and we like to talk about our distinctives, all the stuff that makes us different. What would it mean for me to lay my distinctives aside and focus on what I have in common with others?
I can’t help but wonder if this is what the church is going to have to do.
Can you picture a church hiring both a liberal and conservative pastors? Not to create fights, but to allow space to hear what the spirit of God might be saying.
Is it possible to create a space where traditional mainliners and immigrant Pentecostals can worship together in the same space at the same time?
If the church is going to survive, it is going to have to change.
Can we find ways to define ourselves by what we have in common, before launching into how different we are from each other?
It will mean holding a bit looser to our theology, style of worship and distinctives.
It will mean creating space for perspectives that differ from ours.
It will mean loving first and judging rarely.