I came to the grim conclusion the other day that the church we have been trying out for the last four months is not going to work. Having left a church earlier this year that I had been a part of for more than twelve years was hard enough, but now we find ourselves cast adrift once more.
Is it right to be hard on people who go from church to church? Or are we ignoring the fact that many churches today are missing something necessary for vital fellowship and growth in Christ? The church we left earlier in the year is the model for half the churches being planted in the greater metropolitan area near us, yet they have discovered they’ve been losing forty percent of their seasoned Christian base year over year, drawing in new people, but losing them only a few years later. There is a message there and I suspect that this church is not alone in that horrifying number of turnovers.
Thinking back to 1976 when I became a Christian, I’ve seen a lot of changes in churches in this country from then to now. The rise of Postmodernism has wrecked some of the important theological discourse we must never ignore in our churches, while the megachurch mentality has assailed the real meaning of Christian discipleship, smothering it in whatever tasty topping the casual church shopper wants to munch.
With the prominence of business practices that are akin to survival of the fittest—not only between businesses, but between individual employees—and the progressive shifting of good jobs from one region to another almost overnight, we are finding that our churches are a litany of people passing through. Add to this mix the fact that churches cater to the lowest common denominator in order to keep people from jumping ship and I have got to tell you that I truly wonder if Christ’s church in America has reached a point of no return. A winnowing is occurring that cannot be denied, but it is hard to see if the good seed is being preserved or cast away.
In all honesty, I do not know where to go in our case. It would be nice to be no further than twenty minutes from whatever assembly we do join, but we have been uncertain as to the lifeblood we have seen flowing in the dozen or so churches within that radius.
Does a house church call? Are we the seed for starting anew one? I don’t know. But what else explains the heartbreaking dissatisfaction both my wife and I feel concerning the houses of worship in our area?
What cannot be escaped is that we are the generation that must now lead. I will be forty-two this week and I almost feel as if I’ve already missed the boat in that regard. But still, no man is an island. Other people out there feel as we do, but is there enough momentum there to join us together or will we always be little islands floating in a stream of Christianity that routinely feels foreign and odd to us?
Should it be this hard? In one church you have an entrenched leadership that won’t let “the laity” lead until the ministry options are pried from cold, dead hands. This church preaches against the charismata and that one over there abuses them. In another you find rampant heresy expressed as “cutting-edge ministry.” In another you discover the same old pop-psych Christianity that has robbed the strength from the Gospel. And again, over there you find a fellowship that will not ever understand what fellowship truly is. No church is perfect, yes, but we have got to be doing better than this. And the solution is not to plant more churches. There are about 350,000 churches in this country by one count and I have got to believe that it is better to wake them up than to start more.
In the course of my life I’ve been a part of some great churches. I know they used to exist. But what happened? I find it even hard to write about this because it is so confusing. Cerulean Sanctum exists because I feel we need to explore what is happening and ensure that no one goes through feeling like there is no place to call home. Finding a church to call home should never be a needle in a haystack proposition.
I’d love comments on this, the more the merrier. Please let me know what you think since this issue is so very important.