Where Are All Our Precious Tithers Going?, Or Less Is More

Yesterday I gave some credit and kudos to the conservative Christians out there. However today I may prove just how liberal I really am…

AHHHHHHHHHHH!

-That’s the generally feeling of the collective church right now.

If you read any books, any blogs, hear any sermons, then you’ve likely been informed desperately that we’re losing. The current generation is the least churched generation in American history. All the statistics unanimously point out that people are leaving the church. We’re not just in an economic recession – we’re in a church attending recession.

Panic is ensuing. Churches are trying to revamp and slick up to hold people’s attention. Cool lights and stage set up often work for tricking people into thinking you’re not too archaic.

And I’m not particularly worried. Heck, I think it could actually be a good thing.

The way I see it, what exists today (namely, the American version) is a laughable and miserable excuse for the church. Most people think of church as a service they attend once a week where they see a performance and hear how they should give more of their money to the church.

We don’t have the time nor scope to state what the church is – but I feel quite strongly that the living, breathing, bodily organism that Jesus enstated and cut loose on the earth. Something tells me he did not envision church as a place to attend a class and sing songs and see a couple of goofy videos. It echoed a holiday dinner party more than a concert.

So I don’t blame people for leaving. It makes total sense to me. And I theorize that in leaving they acknowledge its flaws and are open to a totally different way – one where the emphasis isn’t on regular attendance or adherence to rules.

I will allow I understand why people are concerned with the exodus away from church. However, ask any mega church pastor, it easily becomes about the numbers and trying to keep people in the church instead of simply enabling them to love.

So maybe we do need to thin out. Maybe we need our passion renewed. The church has traditionally thrived as the minority, it has shown God’s power through less, and not more. When you get more, you get flashy performances and anthemic choruses, but often not church.

 

What are your thoughts on the church leaving issue? What’s alarming? Could it actually be useful? What does the church do to curb it?

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7 Responses to Where Are All Our Precious Tithers Going?, Or Less Is More

  1. bethegospel says:

    What bothers me is the way in which we go about trying to get numbers back into the church. it is as if our club is losing out to another one and we have to figure out how to get more members as quickly as possible. Do whatever it takes, no matter what scripture might say against it. After all if we all agree then obviously “the Lord is there in our midst giving approval of it” right? Adam McLane talked about this some today as well. http://adammclane.com/2010/10/28/business-models-in-the-church/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+adammclane+%28adammclane.com%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

    • You’re right, when we complain of falling numbers we sound like a swanky golf club who’s losing valuable high-paying clients. We’re more worried about ourselves than the people exiting.

      I think a point I could have made/expanded upon is that higher numbers in the church does not imply a better nation/culture. I would seem that would be so, but the more people in church can often mean we are preaching soft cuddly messages full of feel goodery. I’m not advocating hard hitting fundamentalist alienating messages, I’m in favor of the church taking up love, as vague as that sounds, and not worrying about much else like attendance, money, etc

  2. David says:

    What are your thoughts on the church leaving issue?
    To say it the church exodus is a good thing, is basically saying that somehow that we know more than God. Do our churches needs slap up side the head? YES! The fact the children grow up never learning a Bible verse or a song that is wholesome bothers me. The love of God is lavished on all of humanity – even stupid church people. If people are hearing the word of God, they can and may respond – even it is from Bill Mahr.

    What’s alarming?
    The churches care more about getting people in the door than they do about discipling them to love others with their gifts.

    Could it actually be useful?
    I suppose culling it good if it removes religious people that are far from God – but that is my opinion, not God’s.

    What does the church do to curb it?
    Be real – preach a real Gospel that includes repentance, salvation, spiritual gifts, and discipleship that changes people. If church is not about becoming a Christian, growing in grace and love and serving others, than it is a probably going to have a large turnover.

    • I agree, the church needs to cut the fluff, even though that fluff seems so useful for getting people in our door. We give ’em all show and no meat, as we think they wouldn’t like the meat. I understand, ultimately the message of die to yourself is very difficult to swallow, so we give them easy stuff to drink and slowly transition them to the real stuff.

      I think we both agree to quite worrying about numbers (which in a way is ultimately worrying about the money they need to keep themselves afloat) and start discipling.

  3. Chris says:

    I guess I consider myself fortunate because I’m really not sure where the heck all these horrible churches are. Maybe they’re around me but I haven’t been to one yet, and I’ve been around a few, of all different stripes.

    You want to be very careful when you critique others. At times I hear a kind of slash and burn approach while paying a kind of feeble lip service to the notion that maybe they have a couple of good things about them. There is also a kind of emotional badgering going on. It’s the same kind of badgering and provocations from those on the right that “think that Obama is the anti-Christ and that every liberal is a clandestine Bolshevik.” If you didn’t learn love in your former church I think the one thing you did pick up was this instinct to criticize and critique.
    I’m hearing a lot of what’s terrible about todays churches, but not many solutions other than to say let’s just love one another and give them the meat. The real stuff. Okay, so what IS the real stuff? And what kind of meat is it? Don’t just point out what is wrong with everyone else. Delineate for me Charlie’s perfect church.
    Personally I see size as irrelevant to a church being healthy and faithful.
    There are good small churches.
    There are good big churches.
    There are bad small churches.
    There are bad big churches.

    I also don’t think you size up conservatives very well. And you really should not categorize people in the first place. That is if you really want open and honest conversation as you suggest. You work off of and perpetuate very unflattering stereotypes that hardly any Christians I know would recognize themselves as, or their churches as being. I do want to hear criticism if it’s given in Godly love and I pray that I remain humble. But when you impute the worst possible motives to people within the church, who really most often are trying their very best, you come very close to maligning the servants of God. Liberals, especially younger liberals (of which I was one) tend to recklessly tear down every fence and border they can find. But one thing you might want to do before you tear down a fence is consider why it was put there in the first place. Some fences should not be taken down and some should be taken down, but not without careful thought and consideration. That would be the conservative approach.
    Quite honestly, I really don’t like talking about people being liberal or conservative (I just broke my own rule) because the moment you do it sets up a dichotomy and makes communication problematic. Those kinds of categories sweep with too broad a brush and allow for little nuance. I do think it’s possible to speak of liberalism or conservatism as movements, but people are very complex and should not be rigidly bound to those labels.

    • Chris I do want to thank you for commenting at length on me and this blog. I read your comments multiple times in order to fully hear what you’re saying and soak it in.

      Do consider yourself fortunate that you aren’t as familiar with “horrible churches” as others. I am painfully aware of them and I find myself still dealing with the impression they truly ingrained me nearly a decade after I left. And I know I am certainly not alone here.

      I do have to say your comment that though I didn’t learn love from those churches, I did learn how to critique and criticize was a tough one. It hurt, and it hurt because its true. I of course wish this is not what I was taught, and I hope you understand that part of my processing and healing is to point out the issues I see, as this helps me realize that the church does not have a design flaw but has erred from its God-given course. For me in pointing out where its gone wrong it helps me hone in on what is right. The dangerous aspect to this is that I end up simply slamming people and churches.

      I don’t have much in the way of solutions, though I am trying and as I said its in pointing out the errors that it helps narrow down possible solutions. I’m vague in saying it’s “love,” but I do think its far simpler than we make it out to be. I’m not calling for more innovative or relevant church services, but for legitimate communities of discipleship to arise. I think the solution is a lot simpler, in Christians striving to love and serve others, especially those not in the divine family.

      I agree that liberals (sorry to use the category, they can be helpful at times to convey the vast spectrum, however I’ll try not to rely on categories) have a tendency to tear down all the walls they can find, though I assure you that many do so hoping to find even more glimpses of the God they’ve fallen for. For many their church experience has built these and restricted God for them, and so suddenly they’re/we’re shocked when we found God in places we were told he wouldn’t be. I do know the walls were built for a reason, though in my experience just like labels and categories the walls are too broad and do not allow for enough nuance.

      Again I do thank you for commenting and I understand if I’ve turned you off from my “church.” Though I will say your one comment alone really spoke some truth to me and I welcome further ones, even if they aren’t praising me and my brilliance.

  4. Chris says:

    Charlie,

    I hear what you say and I think (hope) that you gathered that my comments were given in the spirit of encouraging some introspection. It really wasn’t meant to diminish any of your experiences or to tell you you’re crazy for having such thoughts.
    I think that one axiom that always comes back to me in my experience is the one that I would always hear in my professional life. That being: don’t just come to me with complaints, but also offer up some solutions. If complaints are all you have then the problem may just be you and not those around you. A lot of people are really good at complaining and pointing out what’s wrong and then feeling self-satisfied. They never contribute positively and in fact just become a nuisance. Granted church is not a business, but in a sense it does need to be run in a businesslike (or should I say responsible) way. That goes back to the very first Christian congregations that met clandestinely in small groups and homes.
    All the things you mentioned regarding your experiences are legitimate. If the church needs to course correct in some areas then God willing, let it be open and receptive and let reformation take place. But we want to be as prayerful and as sure as we can that any change is truly a movement of the Holy Spirit seeking to blow freely through the churches and not just the whim of some group that has picked up on some social or philosophical movement that they have become enamored of.
    Maybe a starting point for you should be to try to clarify in your mind what the purpose of the church really is. Is it a refuge for the saint or a hospital for the sinner?
    In my mind I think I know (or at least I’ve made a tentative decision as such), but that answer may be different for you. At which point I would say just get in there, roll up your sleeves and find a church. Mix it up (graciously of course) with the people there. Be the gadfly. Get people to hold up the mirror of scripture to force them to see if they are really living up to it. Be prepared to win some and lose some. But in the course of living in community you just may change, and you just may find that you have also changed others. That’s something that can’t happen on the internet. That is the battle of life. But let it be a prayerful battle, always seeking wisdom, and always seeking grace, and always seeking God’s will, because the hardcore fundamentalist you confront someday just may be the “other” that God asks you to visit, or feed, or pray, or interact with in some way.

    Thanks for explaining yourself so well. I hope I’ve done as much. I’ll keep reading and recede a bit, as I don’t want to come across as abrasive either, and just perhaps contribute from time to time.

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