Monday, July 05, 2010
Though consistent church attendance is required in Scripture (Hebrews 10:25) and was practiced by the early church (Acts 2:42-44), 35% of professing believers today choose not to attend1; this should give any thoughtful Christian pause. The days are not long past when church attendance was almost universal in America; even most unbelievers went to church. But if attendance is any indication, it seems that now a full third of people who claim that their Christian faith is "very important to their lives," don’t see the local church as an important part of that faith. Assuming that we do not have to prove to the reader that this development represents a significant problem with a variety of dangerous consequences, we should concern ourselves with locating the origin of this change. Has a seismic shift taken place in the way Christians think about church? Have churches themselves changed such that they are now less attractive to believers? Could it be a mixture of both? To what can we attribute this drooping attendance? How should the church address the issue? The situation is a grave one; the salvation of souls and the health and sanctification of saints is at stake (Hebrews 3:12-13)! A thoughtful book, saturated with penetrating analysis is needed. Unfortunately, "What to Do When You Don’t Want to Go to Church", by Peggy Palau (the wife of evangelist Luis Palau) and Peggy Sue Wells, is not that book.In the critiques of the book the author makes this very cogent analysis
To be completely fair, it doesn’t seem that the authors entirely intended to write such a book. What they did write (or more accurately, what they compiled), however, is something like a folksy pep-talk for those Christians who are too lazy or too traumatized by past experiences to go to church. Whatever its faults, on the whole, the book does manage to achieve its aims. Even the least motivated person wouldn’t find it difficult to complete; weighing in at 200 pages of large print on small paper, it is not a hefty or challenging volume. And the tone is an effective mix of stern and sympathetic, perfect to motivate the lazy and defuse those who cling to past hurts. Yet despite these benefits, the book’s analysis is all too shallow to be widely useful. Though the conclusion is dead on (go to Church no matter how you feel), the book fails to discern and address some of the deeper reasons why so many have abandoned the church.
:The authors show little understanding of the purpose of the church. Though they advocate going to church in order to bless others, most of the book reinforces the notion that the church simply exists to serve the felt needs of the believer. Too many of the authors’ arguments boil down to the notion that we should go to church because it’s a really good way to get what you want (even though we don’t intuitively think so). In the early part of the book they tell us "the key words that define church are connecting and belonging. We long to belong and feel connected").That idea needs to be spread to so many things. In the end, WE, not just the church, exist to glorify God. I think that is the problem I have with Evangelicalism most of all - its about what God has for us, not what we have for God, or more aptly, without God we are and have nothing.
Connection and a sense of belonging may very well be the objects of our desires, but our sense of our needs doesn’t determine the nature of the church. The church exists to glorify God, to preach his Word to the world, to build up believers and to show God’s character in our unity, self sacrificial love and holiness (just to name a few reasons!). Though believers should connect and feel like they belong in a congregation, telling them to attend church for that reason alone seems a bit like encouraging people to go the Louvre because the gift shop is great.
If you think about it - we do not need to be sold on God - He needs to be sold on us, but the glorious thing is - He is already sold on us.