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Monday, May 12, 2014

Is God on "His" way to extinction?

Gavin Rumney recently asked, "Why do people leave the church?" (http://otagosh.blogspot.com/) His post is a commentary on the self-serving musings of Pastor Jim West about the reasons that people leave the Church. Pastor West says that the fault lies with the people who leave, not the church. Mr. Rumney concludes that people leave the Church because it is no longer relevant. He goes on to say that leaving the Church is an "ethical imperative" for most folks - "an integrity issue."

There is certainly ample evidence of an overall decline in Church attendance. In an article for The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com), Trevor Grundy reports that Anglican Church officials in Britain are elated that church attendance appears to have stabilized after years of steady decline. However, this elation seems a bit premature in light of the fact that only 1.1 million of the estimated 22 million official members of the Church actually attend services!

In another article for the same journal, Steve McSwain ("Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore") reports that the situation in the United States isn't much better. He notes that "more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more fulfilling things to do on weekends" than go to Church. He goes on to point out that about 3 million churchgoers join the ranks of the unaffiliated each year. Moreover, these shocking statistics tend to be born out by the analysis of institutions like the Pew Research Center. (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/09/13/what-surveys-say-about-worship-attendance-and-why-some-stay-home/)

Nevertheless, it is also interesting to note that about 74 percent of Americans still profess a belief in God. (http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/447/ctl/ReadCustom%20Default/mid/1508/ArticleId/1353/Default.aspx) Hence, while church attendance has declined precipitously over the years, belief in God remains fairly widespread. Thus, if we are looking at this objectively, we would have to conclude that the problem appears to be with the Church - not with the people or God!

Why are people leaving? Why are young folks not interested in Church?

Could it be that people are tired of the stale arguments over things like:
the proper form of Church governance; the proper mode of baptism; the proper way to observe the Lord's Supper/Communion/Passover; whether God is one, two or three individuals; and which day we should gather for worship?

Could it be that people are tired of trying to live up to standards that everyone admits are beyond our reach? (I'm thinking about issues like premarital sex, divorce, birth control and homosexuality?

Could it be that folks are tired of seeing other folks profiting from the Gospel? Could it be that folks see the accumulation of wealth and the ostentatious displays of some "Christian" organizations as hypocritical and inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ?

Could it be that folks have decided that they don't need other people telling them what to believe, what to think, how to act, or how to worship their Creator?

The way I see it there is much evidence to support the notion that there is a profound Spiritual need currently extant among us humans. Most of us still seek a relationship with the Divine. Even so, many of us have decided that organizations purporting to represent Christianity have largely failed to make a meaningful contribution to that quest. I don't think God's on "His" way to extinction, but many of those organizations might be!

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