According to a USA Today article, 37% of Americans are “unchurched,” which is a significant increase from 1991 when that number was 24%. As the article points out, Americans aren’t leaving the church because of an overall lack of faith in God, they are leaving the church because of an overall lack of faith in the Church.
While the number of unchurched Americans has increased, 67% of people still believe that God is an “all-knowing, all-powerful ruler,” which is a bold proclamation to begin with. The number of people who simply believe in the existence of God is much higher.
Why is there such a chasm between those who believe in God and those who believe in the importance of His Church?
Nadine Epstein, editor and publisher of Moment magazine, said, “We live in an era where you pick and choose the part of the religion that makes sense to you. And you can connect through culture and history in a meaningful way without necessarily religiously practicing.”
With more and more people dropping out of church today, it makes me wonder, “Whose fault is it?”
It’s rather obvious that the Church has had some public relations issues over the years. In David Kinnaman’s book unChristian, he writes that the overwhelming public perception of Christians is that we are judgmental, hypocritical, too involved in politics, anti-homosexual, and sheltered. Boom. Roasted.
On the other hand, you can’t blame the Church for everything. An interesting statistic from this article is that 40% of Americans attend a worship service, while only 15% attend Sunday School and 19% volunteer at church.
This shows that there’s no one to blame. This shows that there is a problem – people aren’t getting connected with their church. The fear of commitment that people have in dating relationships carries over into how they view church. I’ll date around, but I’m not looking to be tied down. If this church does something I don’t like, then I’m out.
A few weeks ago, our church had sign-ups for people to join community groups (small groups that meet outside of church), and one of our pastors said, “If you’re not involved in a community group at Cross Point, you probably won’t stick around more than 6 weeks.” Boom. Roasted.
But why is that? When you’re not deeply connected to a community of believers at church, it’s easy to leave. Our church had more than 1,000 people sign up for community groups that Sunday, and no one forced them to sign up. They chose to sign up. Plenty of churches provide opportunities for people to get connected, but if you simply see church as an way to get “heavenly church credits” but sitting in a pew for an hour each week, then you’re missing out. Eventually you’ll drop out of church altogether and wonder why your spiritual life is tepid and stale.
After taking the summer off, our community group picked back up last week, and as I thought about how we joined this community group the previous year I told my wife, “This marks the one year anniversary of the start of the best year of our lives.” Over the past year, our lives and our marriage have been transformed by our community group, and this is something that we would have missed if we were just Sunday attenders at our church.
Yes, part of the problem is that people are selfish, and they want to build their churches and religions to fit their needs. Yes, part of the problem is that some churches do stupid, embarrassing things. But there is a solution.
How does your church encourage people to get connected?