The Church of America is in crisis. We are suffering from overwhelming apathy toward our God.
Maybe you could care less and don’t believe you need the Church. Maybe the only time you feel a need to join a community of faith is for weddings, funerals, Christmas and Easter. Maybe the man-made institution has hurt you and you want nothing to do with it today.
The Church’s history is indeed littered with corruption, greed and other sins. It has often had the exact opposite effect for which it was originally intended. It was created not to alienate and condemn, but to help a community of believers grow in their faith and spread the love of Jesus world-wide.
An article published in Outreach Magazine titled “7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America,” explores some reasons why church attendance among all denominations has been plummeting during the past 30 to 40 years. David T. Olson, executive minister of the department of church growth and evangelism, defines regular church attendance as someone who shows up at least three out of every eight Sundays. He is also author of “American Church in Crisis” (Zondervan, 2008).
“Established churches in decline are suffering from a leadership crisis,” says Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor of Windsor United Methodist Church in Houston. A pastor who is honestly and genuinely seeking direction from God about how to shepherd and care for his or her flock is rare. Too often, churches are run like businesses, or develop hardened hearts to God’s leading. This leads to ineffective teaching and overlooking the community’s needs. It’s no wonder, then, that members drift away.
Bob Coy, senior pastor and founder of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, points to a different crisis for established churches – one of relevancy, especially for today’s young people searching for real truth and reasons for actions. While there is a need to make worship relatable and appealing for today’s youth. I think it also needs to guard against being perceived as mere entertainment for short attention spans.
Despite the Church’s many failures, we must continue to genuinely seek God. He is experienced not in isolation, but within a community of other believers. As Americans, we are blessed with the opportunity to worship God publicly without government persecution or death. Yes, some may find communing with the Holy more meaningful on the golf course or on a bicycle, but that should not replace regularly attending a faith community.
“I know that isn’t a popular bit of advice at a time and in a country where the church is frequently seen more as an ‘obstacle’ in the way rather than as the way to Jesus. Nevertheless, I am profoundly convinced that the greatest danger for our times is the separation of Jesus from the Church. The Church is the body of the Lord. Without Jesus, there can be no Church; and without the Church, we cannot stay united with Jesus. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has come closer to Jesus by forsaking the Church. To listen to the Church is to listen to the Lord of the Church,” wrote Henri Nouwen. He penned more than 40 books on spiritual life, and was an internationally renowned priest and professor.
Please, return to worship at your Mass, your synagogue, your Episcopalian or your Pentecostal community. Look for God in your Presbyterian, your Baptist, your Methodist or Lutheran or Evangelical Free community of worship.
I was raised in the Church, but there was a time in my life when I myself wanted nothing to do with it. My challenge now isn’t to return to a faith community, but to undergo an attitude adjustment so that my worship is genuine rather than going through the motions. Authentic worship and praise is a natural reaction when we recognize and acknowledge all the blessings God has given us.
I attend a place of worship each Sunday not out of guilt and obligation, but to remind myself to repent and accept God’s love and forgiveness. I go not be entertained but to love and serve others. I sit in a pew not to be look impressive to neighbors, colleagues or family, but to seek God’s leading in my life. That is how I define genuine worship.