Last weekend most people in America
avoided church. And, a sizable portion of those who did make it to
church wished they were somewhere else. But why?
I decided to go direct to the source. I staked out a city park
to ask the public why they weren't in church. What they told me
echoed what I've been hearing for several years now.
Their reasons centered around four recurring themes:
- "Church people judge me." A young woman
told me that as a child she regularly attended church and Sunday
school. But she's given up on the church as an adult. "They make me
feel like an outcast," she said. "How? Why?" I asked. "Well, I'm a
smoker," she said.
- "I don't want to be lectured." More
people today want to participate in the discussion. A man told me
he's talked with over a thousand other men who've given up on
church. He said, "Guys don't want to sit in a room and idly listen
to some preacher do all the talking. They want to ask questions.
They want to share their thoughts too."
- "They're a bunch of hypocrites." I know
church leaders are weary of this "excuse." But people aren't merely
referring to incongruous behavior. What bothers them is the sense
that church spokespeople act like they have all the answers. That
they've arrived. That they're only interested in telling others
what to do-"teaching," to use the church vernacular.
- "I don't want religion. I want God." Most
people don't experience God at church. They're not looking for the
"deep" theological trivia that seems to interest some preachers.
They crave something very simple. They're dying to be reassured
that God is real, that he is more than a historical figure, that he
is present today, and that he is active in the lives of people
Those of us who remain in this imperfect gathering of the
faithful need to stop talking and "teaching" long enough to listen
to the majority outside our walls. I'm not suggesting their views
are flawless. Or that we should design ministry merely according to
consumer whims. But we do need to keep our ultimate goal in mind-to
help bring others into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.
That's what defined the ministry of Jesus himself. He boldly
broke away from the habits and routines of the religious elite of
the time. And he fashioned a highly relational ministry that
connected with the disenfranchised.
We've heard the four cries of the common people cited here so
often that we decided to address them as we shaped the national
network of Lifetree
Cafes. In fact, these cries form the basis for the Lifetree
values that are posted and stated each week at every Lifetree
You're welcome just as you are.
Your thoughts are welcome. Your doubts are welcome.
We're all in this together.
God is here, ready to connect with you in a fresh