This post is from the WARBC Council Chairman, Bill Mattox.
I recently came across a report on the decline in church attendance among people who identify as Christians. I found the article both instructional and frustrating. I have attached the link for your perusal as I do not wish to redefine the parameters of the study. However, I think there are some things worth noting.
As I read these results, it seems to me that the elephant in the room is the issue of sexuality. It should not be a surprise. Sexual sin has long been at the core of the human condition. Even a casual reading of the Bible will quickly acquaint you with the struggle that humanity has had handling the natural drive of sexual intimacy within the boundaries of God’s plan.
Clearly, the culture is winning the war. And just as clearly, some in the “Evangelical Christian” camp have taken positions which seem to embolden those who would seek to depart from the biblical standard.
While I have never been a big fan of Andy Stanley, some of his recent statements seem have given me even greater cause. I have come to question his views on inerrancy and to this point of sexual identity, and I really struggle with his response to the LGBTQ+ movement.
This issue is huge in our world. Huge!!!
Outside our framework of theology and accepted practice of faith the issues abound to an even greater degree.
The German Catholic Church has just defied Rome on the issue of same sex marriage. Fireworks to follow??
The Anglican Church of England has recently denied the ordination of Calvin Robinson based on his desire to maintain the truth of scripture and 2000 years of the teaching of the church of the issue of marriage.
YouTube interviews abound on all of these men and their positions ….
A few points made by the article are worthy of note and worth consideration as we evaluate our own ministries.
1. How do we demonstrate our love for sinners and still hate sin. I don’t think it is as hard as we want to make it. If you are a parent, you have had some years of practice with this. Part of the value/purpose of church membership is accountability. Discipleship, like parenting, requires a willingness to discipline. Perhaps young people are walking away because they were never properly discipled.
2. When the piety of our parents in the pews on Sunday is not matched by practice in the public on Monday … “Houston, we have a problem.” But beyond that, the youth of the world has watched and been rebuffed by Christians whose compassion for others has seemed to them to be sadly lacking. I do understand the cultural shift in generational thinking, but it is my observation that sometimes we (as a community) have failed to show that we are Christians by our love.
3. Political pandering in the church. We need to preach to social issues by clear biblical texts. The problem we discuss here is the child of point #2.
Finally, my frustration.
My biggest frustration is that what the “deconverters” miss the most about the church they have abandoned is community.
Seriously??? In one instance they value the newfound freedom to be “allowed” to practice whatever lifestyle they choose but in the same breath they miss desperately the sense of community that cramped their freedom. Perhaps they never understood what freedom was … it is certainly not freedom to sin. I am truly confused by this confusion.
In conclusion, I think this article has challenged me on several levels. We need to:
Be a better disciple maker … help my people to think apologetically
Love people more. Be more grace driven. Preach the truth in love and make sure the people I am preaching to know I love them.
Help people understand the freedom that is found in Jesus. It is there in abundance.
Build even stronger community. Not only in my congregation but in the universal body of Christ … who don’t all look like or think like me.