I have been bombarded in the last week by many ideas concerning why churches do not grow and what we should do so that the church can attract more people. My wife is reading a bestselling book by a famous atheist who is also attacking the church, so it seems that the modern church is disliked by Christians and non-Christians alike. What is the solution then?
This reminds me of an anecdotal story I heard many years ago about an ailing man living in a remote, frigid mountain village. He was pale and anemic from an unhealthy life, so his friends and doctor told him to go to Florida for some rest and sun.
Well, the idea seemed fine to our protagonist, and he soon found himself lying on sunny beaches eating lots of healthy food. However, he died in a few weeks. Sorry to end the story so soon.
The deceased was quickly embalmed and sent on a train back to the mountain town, and at his funeral his friends remarked in astonishment how much better he looked after his trip. “Oh, he has finally put on some weight, and he is not as pale and anemic looking since he got some sun.” “You know”, one woman exclaimed, “that trip to Florida really did him a lot of good!”
Does this sound as stupid to you as it does to me? It is equally ignorant to think that cosmetic change on a Sunday morning service will bring life when the real problem is that some churches are rather dead in either their walk with God or their desire to reach their communities. Outer changes simply enhance, but they cannot give rise to life.
Now back to my main point. Both the atheist writhing in his best-seller and some progressive church planters make the same mistake. It is not really archaic styles of worship and out-of-style clothing that make churches irrelevant. These are definitely barriers that need to be addressed if we are to reach a godless culture. However, the problem often lies with irrelevant Christians and those who call themselves Christians while saying and doing stupid things. Many of the criticisms from this atheist were not even related to Christian truths but to basic Christian behavior (or misbehavior).
A person who knows Jesus will love others enough to be motivated to make Him known. He can dress like Mr. Rogers or a punk rocker. In the end, it won’t make a very big difference. The lost will be attracted to the genuine life of Christ within us. By the way, Mr. Rogers was an ordained minister. I would not be surprised if punkers still watch his show when no one is looking.
The world needs a Resurgence of life through vibrant Christians following Christ in community.
A Great Blog:
How to Encourage Yourself 101