The Church Is Changing: The Coming Earthquake
Over the last few years I have noticed a confession from Christians being whispered to me with increasing frequency and it usually goes something like this; “I still love God but I really don’t go to church anymore.”
The thing is in years past such statements were usually followed with a story of a bad church experience involving perhaps some leadership abuse or a church split. Although those sad experiences within the Body of Christ certainly haven’t gone away I am frequently hearing the tales of people who just stopped going to church…period.
Just didn’t feel like going anymore…
Some didn’t even consciously stop going to church. They didn’t “stop” at all. They just didn’t go this Sunday…
…then the next Sunday they had to work
… then the next Sunday their kid had a baseball game
… the next Sunday they wanted to sleep in as it was a busy work week
and so on…
Before they knew it, they were part of the growing community of Christians who had stopped attending church.
When I inquire further of these Christians however I often find out they haven’t stopped going to church per se. They still seem to want to get together with other believers, study the Bible, pray, and enjoy meals and communion together. What happens it seems is…
… they only stopped going to a Sunday Morning Service.
And because they aren’t attending a particular Sunday service, others see them, and they often see themselves, as “not going to church.”
Is Sunday Morning Service “Church”?
On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people…
Verses like this one have served as the basis for the main gathering of Christian believers to meet on a Sunday. However for Christians looking for some clarity and direction in church life often “descriptive” portions of scripture (they had this meeting and it just happened to be on Sunday) end up being “prescriptive” in their application (“Church” primarily happens on a Sunday.)
And here is the crux; Ask any Christian from pastor, to seminary professor, to Sunday School teacher, to pew warmer and they will all confirm without hesitation that “church” is much more than the Sunday morning service…
In practice “church” has largely become nothing BUT the Sunday morning service and the Body of Christ re-enforces that reality with our language and actions everyday!
And I’m as guilty as anyone.
A Christian can go to a home group meeting on Tuesday night, a Bible Study on Wednesday night, and to feed the homeless on Friday night but if they skip Sunday morning they felt, and we confirm, that they didn’t “go to church” that week.
Interestingly as well most of the people that I know that have told me they stopped “going to church” (aka Sunday morning service) had been attending church for a long time! But after 20 or 30 odd years of “3 fast ones, 3 slow ones, announcements, and a preach” they don’t feel abused or burnt out, they just feel… bored!
They love God, love his people but inside they are crying out, “Is this all there is? Is there nothing more?”
Now I’m not suggesting Sunday morning service can’t be a “part” of our church life. I’m a pastor who preaches and teaches many Sunday mornings at Island City Church here in Hong Kong; a church I founded nearly 20 years ago. What I am suggesting though is if we want to see the Body of Christ bringing the incredible life Jesus promised and healing to our communities and the nations then other vibrant aspects of church life must increase and the weight of “church” being on a Sunday morning must decrease.
Millennials and Baby Boomers
For more than 30 years we have heard the imperative, often preached from the pulpit, that the church must move beyond the 4 walls of the church building.
But if we’re honest, that really hasn’t happened.
And when it does happen it often simply takes the form of an evangelistic stunt designed to get even more people “inside” the 4 walls of the church.
Now you got the Millennials (those born in the 1990s and later) who are not simply disenchanted with the Sunday morning routine, they don’t find it particularly interesting or relevant to begin with. These “Millennials” make up a large proportion of the “nones” which are the name given to the rapidly growing percentage of people who are religiously non-affiliated in America.
So now we have a tectonic plate of older church folk pressing against the present church system from one side and a bunch of younger “Millennials” pressing against it from the other.
Pressure is rising!
For those with a life long vested interest in the present “church system” the coming earthquake when these “tectonic plates” shift will be a little scary…but for many of us looking for the Body of Christ to reflect the intentions, promises, and love of Jesus to a world in need of healing the possibilities are endless…and anticipated!
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