I have a confession to make: I don’t like church. I’ve been a Christian for thirty years (since I was six years old) and have attended services at churches that were Southern Baptist, Independent Baptist, United Methodist, Free Methodist, Presbyterian (both PCA and PC(USA)), Pentecostal, Assembly of God, and various denominations that call themselves “non-denominational.”
I’ve been in some churches were the preacher spoke in dulcet tones and others where he’d speak in tongues. I’ve been in churches were the congregation sits in the pews and others were they roll in the aisles. I’ve been in churches where people raise their hands in praise and others where they keep their hand on their wallet. I’ve been in everything from mega churches in California to house churches in Japan. In other words, I'm no stranger to church.
Joe's not alone (and apparently, if he were alone, he'd still have a problem). Heh.
The phenomenon that seems to be affecting Churchdom, one I've apparently been a part of (unknowingly in many respects), has a name.
An alarming number of Christians are staying home on Sunday mornings and the trend is affecting today's church. Believers who have become "stayaway saints" are alternately worrying and exciting church leaders, pointing to what is being seen as either a serious threat to the spread of the gospel or the actual cusp of a revolution that could usher in the sort of revival many have prayed for and dreamed of for years.
A recent study by The Barna Group, a California-based Christian research organization, found that about 13 million Americans whom the researchers identified as being born again were "unchurched ... not having attended a Christian church service, other than for a holiday ... at any time in the past six months."
Revival historian and teacher Andrew Strom found painful evidence of "a worldwide phenomenon." After speaking on radio about what he has dubbed the "Out of Church Christians," and writing about them in one of his e-newsletters, he was bombarded with responses from people around the world telling him, "Me too."
I shouldn't be surprised but I am. I've known of others in the same boat, that ship of fools adrift in the sea of confusion (as some might paint it). I've been un-regular for nearly two years (although I have gone 4 out of the last 5 weeks). To be honest, I'm not so sure it's all "an organized religion is a bust" problem which is why I guess Joe's piece rang a rather familiar bell.
The more I've thought about where I am spiritually, the more I'm recognizing that I've been hard on the church. Yes, she makes a mess of what is Christiandom. She does hurt more than she helps far too often. But what does withdrawal solve? I've been inspired as much in the last 4 weeks in church as I think I have out of it. And yes, that can be read in a variety of different ways.
I just think Joe has a piece to this puzzle too many of us Stayaway Saints are ignoring.