Friday, January 11, 2008

Reaching the UnChurched

The UCC reports that a new study from LifeWay was released today that explains that three-quarters of Americans are disinterested in church because they feel that the church is full of hypocrites. A part of the report says,

"Almost three-quarters of Americans who haven't darkened the door of a church in the last six months think it is "full of hypocrites," and even more of them consider Christianity to be more about organized religion than about loving God and people, according to a new survey."

Of the study, others responses shed light on an interesting reason. The study reports that while three-quarters of Americans are disinterested, 72% believe that God "actually exists". So the challenge isn't that Americans find that God is bogus (as Richard Dawkins might say) but rather the church is bogus because of the way its members behave.

Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, said in the finding that 79 percent of respondents thought Christianity was more about organized religion than about loving God and people should challenge individual Christians.

In other words, the reason that people aren't attending church is because of us--we are not living genuine Christian lives. I say we--not to point fingers but as a general explanation to say that were we to live what we preach, we wouldn't be seen a hypocritical. Instead (and this is just my opinion), we live to please ourselves while doing church. We're consumeristic, debt ridden, selfish, earth plunderers instead of being communal, frugal, generous, and good stewards. We separate those who disagree with us according to our theologies and religion--all the while condemning folks who look at God differently than we do. We make politics of exclusion and scapegoating our main course and, if we have room for dessert and coffee, we give platitudes to those who need God by saying, "We'll pray for you... now leave me alone."

I believe, that in order for our Church (and by this I mean more than just our congregation), we'll going to have to prove our faith to the world who is looking for Someone to believe in. This same study reported that while most view the church as hypocritical, 78% would be willing to listen to someone share their faith and testimony of God. We haven't yet crossed the line where people find the Church to be irrelevant--instead, they only find "us" irrelevant.

As we go about re-imaging and re-interpreting what it means to be a Christian, we are also going to ask ourselves, "How can we become relevant as Jesus is relevant?" Now is the time to get serious--if we wait or put it off or hope that others find an appropriate answer for those who are seeking God, it'll be too late.

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