As time goes by, the image of church seems to be taking a beating. I do not think any of us would deny that our grandparents saw church very differently than our grandkids see church today. That is, if our grandkids are even taken to church.
Church was once part of the social scene for families. It was common to have 7-night revivals, sometimes in tents, with a hellfire and brimstone sermon that called for hammering a podium. That generation responded to having the living daylights scared out of them. It was all part of belonging to a church.
Church then became more about religion than it did about actually being part of a church family. People were satisfied with saying, “I’m Catholic,” or “I’m Baptist,” or “I’m Methodist.” We seemed to stop talking about Jesus at all; unless we used His name while cursing.
The next generation saw church as necessary, or worse, required. It’s as if it was (or is) a task on our To-Do List that we check off each Sunday. Church seems more about the social aspect and finding good friends to “do life with” than it is about discipleship or spiritual growth. There are a lot of bible studies in the habit of telling one another what the bible has to say to the outside world. The bible seems to be turned outward more these days than it is turned inward allowing each of us to examine ourselves. Kids are/were brought up seeing church as a duty and as a way to weed out the undesirables in our lives. There is a stick-together mentality as opposed to spreading the love.
Yes, I know – I am speaking in generalities.
My greatest fear is this generation. It isn’t so much that they have a negative image of church; it’s more about the fact that very few of them see a need for church. Church is slowly fading away and churches are choosing a number of ways to respond to the decline in attendance. Some get louder exercising more power; while some turn up the entertainment factor trying to draw people in.
So, what do we do? I suggest we begin by asking ourselves (and not answering for anyone else), “Does God expect me to go to church?”
Some of my friends will say church is not an important part of life at all – it’s a choice; a mere preference. I go to church because I want to; not because I have to. I go to church to worship and learn; not to determine how ugly and sinful the world has become. I go to church to sing and love and live for Him; not because I believe God is this evil father that is just waiting to zap me when I fail. I go to church to be taught. When you get right down to it, how do I expect to live by example if I don’t even know what the Master’s plan looks like?
“They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” Acts 2:42
“Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25