Why nothing seems to get people back to church – The issue at the core of decline

“People just aren’t committed like they used to be”

This week, I came across this satirical article from the site BabylonBee “After 12 Years Of Quarterly Church Attendance, Parents Shocked By Daughter’s Lack Of Faith

The article humorously reveals an issue facing many churches today. I can’t tell you how many times (56,819 times) I have had the conversation where someone talks about the fact that young people aren’t as committed as they once were. People aren’t coming to church like they did in decades past, and those left behind have started to notice. Many congregations are feeling older, thinner, and tired out. The future feels bleak. The studies tell us that the church is declining.

And so churches try any number of things to attract people back to church. Youth group programs, revamped and modern music, renovated worship spaces, hip and cool pastors with tattoos and any number of other gimmicks.

But nothing seems to work. At least I haven’t heard of any churches successfully bringing back all the members who drifted away. And yet we keep at it, week after week, year after year worrying about people who were once here. Our grand plans for revitalization is to try and appeal to people who have already chosen to leave. Sure, it works once in a while, but this is probably not a strategy for success.

Yet, while churches fret and worry about those who were once there, we rarely take the time to understand what we are asking people to come back and commit to.

Commitment to church

A lot of sermons, bible studies, meetings, conferences, lectures, consultants, coaches and more have been spent analyzing and communicating the message that the social advantages of church that drove attendance in decades past no longer exist. It just isn’t the case anymore that good citizens born here are expected to become good church members. Schools, work, neighbours, businesses, governments don’t do –  society-at-large doesn’t do – our evangelism for us anymore.

Church isn’t an expected social commitment any longer.

Yet, almost always when we speak of getting people to start coming back to church, we say it just like that – ‘back to church.’ And the issue goes deeper to than that. So often when I ask church members what reason keeps them coming to church, there is almost always one things at to the top of the list: Church feels like family, church is a community.

Churches should be communities where we feel connected to each other in deep ways.  But family and community are still social commitments at the end of the day.

Social Commitment

Most churches are, at their core, institutions formed around a social or societal commitment. The core of churches have been based on the fact that people are expected to attend because of societal pressures. And when society taught us through family, friends, neighbours, schools, workplaces, TV, movies, newspapers, courthouses, and governments that being church attenders was important, churches organized around social commitment worked well.

These churches did good ministry, they reached people with the gospel and they were servant communities.

But now that society is no longer providing the pressure to be church attenders, attracting people to a social commitment doesn’t work.

In fact, it may be the very thing that is driving people away.

Our pitch for church has often become some version of “come to church because you should” or “come to church for your family” or “come to church for the community”

Yet, people are choosing sports or music or clubs or brunch with friends or sleeping in with family because they love those things. People are choosing things that they are passionate about, things that they love. Social pressure doesn’t hold much sway anymore, even if our society did push church on people.

When you love soccer, finding a team to play on is also finding a community with a shared passion. When you love brunch, finding a brunch club means joining a community that shares your love of brunch. When you love lazy Sunday mornings with family, you have a community that also loves sleeping in.

But what is our shared loved at church? Are we just communities to join without a shared passion?

Commitment to Jesus

If I had to guess, the vast majority of people who still might be looking for a church in 2016 are not looking for a social commitment to church.

As a millennial, I never lived in the era of social commitment or social pressure to go to church. While most of my peers growing up weren’t interested in church, nor exposed to it beyond Christmas and Easter, the ones who did express interest did not do it for the social commitment.

My church going peers were interested in following Jesus.

Now, imagine someone is looking for a church. They are looking for a church with a commitment to following Jesus at its core and they show up at a social commitment church. It would be like showing up for a soccer team that stopped playing soccer years ago, and who instead gathers for coffee and donuts with friends and family. But this gathering of people still call themselves a soccer team.

Now imagine members of that “soccer team” wringing their hands week after week over the fact that no one wants to join the team to clean up coffee and pick up the donuts. You can see why soccer players looking for a team wouldn’t join. You can see why many members of the team left a long time ago.

As churches try to understand why all the attempts to attract people back to church haven’t yield better results, I think it is because the core foundation that brings most church communities together is fundamentally at odds with what people who are looking for churches are seeking today.

If I had to guess, that if people are looking for church these days, they are doing it in the same way that someone would look for a soccer team. A soccer player looks for a team because they love soccer. A church seeker is looking for a church community because they love Jesus and want to follow him. They are not looking for a church because they love church.

And it goes deeper than that. If getting people to church is the chief concern, than we will always be looking to draw people in.

But if following Jesus, and letting people know about this gracious, merciful and compassionate God, is at our core, we will reach out. And reaching out to let people know about Jesus, may or may not include more bums in pews. Either way, building the church is not the goal, but at best is a symptom of reaching people with Jesus.

So how can churches address this? How can churches built on the social commitment to church have the conversation about the fact that the very thing that brings them together as a community is their biggest problem?

With a lot of soul-searching, a lot of questions, a lot of discerning and a lot of prayer. Changing our foundations and cores will not be easy. In fact, many churches will choose to die instead of changing to the core of following Jesus.

Despite the social commitment at the core of our churches, I think that many churches and church members do want to follow Jesus too. And it isn’t that a church has to choose between being a community or following Jesus. One doesn’t exclude the other.

But churches DO have to choose what is at their core. Churches need to choose the foundation that gathers their community.

Is it a social commitment to church?

Or are we followers of Jesus whose shared passion brings us together?


What is the core passion that brings your church together? How can churches change their core? Share in the comments, or on the Facebook Page: The Millennial Pastor or on Twitter: @ParkerErik

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76 thoughts on “Why nothing seems to get people back to church – The issue at the core of decline”

  1. Perhaps we, myself included, who grew up in the church as youngsters would do better as adults if we committed our beliefs and questions and anxieties to actual church attendance, where we could readily share these concerns. Too many times we let ourselves become accustomed to “wondering”, or “sharing”, from afar — sort of like how I just posted this…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was passionate and vocal in my church, and not always towing the institutional church rhetoric, but confronting hypocrisies in the church, as I viewed them. I very much wanted to be part of the church, was very active in ministry and was trying to fit in, as I look back. I was subsequently told to find another denomination. So much for “all are welcome here”; they don’t mean it. I find the institutional church has very little to do with Jesus, and more with just perpetuating itself. I did leave, and am disappointed that I allowed them to drive me out. I find church now in everyday living, the beauty of nature and all things created, Basically in living in love and keeping Jesus’ ways front and center.

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      1. But if the church doesn’t concern itself with perpetuation of its existence, who will? Part of God’s perception of faith for us is for us to be present in his House — the church. In the end, however, it is by faith alone that God receives us in our final destination. I pray for your contentment.

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        1. I wonder if that is putting the cart ahead of the horse. I think that reaching people with the gospel – God’s gracious love for us – and the church will follow. The problem has been putting the church before the gospel.

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        2. Let it go to God. If you focus on following Jesus and working to that goal or purpose, the rest will be provided. You would likely find, to the authors point, that you gather more followers.

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      2. I have seen this happen, The favorite, well you do not be here or show up its called the dam Click of a church, Coffee is the best example.

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        1. But it also requires little to no commitment nor change on the part of those attending. So yes it may sound popular, in the end, the numbers as a whole for the group in the country will continue to slide. The younger, less committed, folks, will stroll in one day, and say: ‘hey that’s a good church’, but find themselves not attending for weeks on end, because they find no reason to do so. You gave them no reason to: “The leaders told them… Your fine, you don’t have to change anything. Jesus loves you no matter whatever you do, even heonously disgusting things.”

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          1. But that’s not the idea at all. At the core, the reason to come to the Gospel at all is to acknowledge human frailty and our (all of our) SHARED unworthiness due to what we have done and what we have left undone. The good news is not that we are good people, but that we are loved despite our brokenness AND that Jesus cleanses us of our sins and our response is to live with the light of Christ. It’s not an excuse for bad behavior or a reason not to change. It is a reason TO change, and we are there, or supposed to be there, to SUPPORT one another in this never-ending process. We will all fail, we are all in need of the message of forgiveness and salvation, and because we all fail time and time again, we need assurance and atonement. But, what we don’t need is judgement. What we need is understanding and support.

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      3. I didn’t see my comment I will try again, try the Episcopal Church we welcome ALL people and respect people. We are not here to judge you, just to share God’s word and love.

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      4. Fist bump of solidarity, Susan. I was driven out too. But I am no longer disappointed – I still know people in the church, and they have continued in the behaviors that caused me to leave. If anything, I am angry with myself for continuing as long as I did – because in my effort to be change from the inside, I ended up feeling like a collaborator.

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        1. What was happening in the church that made you want to leave? I sincerely want to know. Our little church is disappearing before my eyes. I love it so and do not understand where we went wrong.

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          1. They slid farther and farther right, and started using the language of hate. The last day I was there, people stood up and condemned
            LGBT people as abominations – not calling their behavior wrong, but referring to the people themselves as abominations. Some of those “abominations” were their children, their nieces and nephews.

            That is not Christian, it is not loving, and I could not be there another second. I haven’t set foot in that church since.

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      5. Sorry to hear your story, Susan. Denominational-ism has a dark side where factors other than loving and serving Jesus become the reasons for being in existence. I do hope you find a church that is a family who love Jesus with whom you can worship and serve the Lord.

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      6. There is a great book you may want to read called Church refugees. I found it really speaking to me in the way you describe, how we desire love life and growth but run head long into agendas, self-preservation, and bureaucracy. Not that the early church was a utopia, but I do admire the way the church grew without buildings and paid staff. I wonder if we’ll see the decline on the church in western society morph into simpler, life-on-life examples of discipleship and daily growth that perhaps even Jesus modeled.

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  2. I think the reason many aren’t in churhes is because we now have this technology where they can watch all the pastors on TV. And many think that as long as they watch them that they don’t have to go to church. But they are so wrong because the word of God says we are not to forsaken the assembling. I have nothing against these TV pastors but in all honesty they can’t offer the people who watch them on TV anything.

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    1. totally disagree with you…MANY people are not able to attend church, they have no ride, are bedridden, etc….. my 99 y.o. aunt and 96 y.o. mother both watch mass on tv and they are both perfectly fine with it….they cannot sit in church thru a ‘real mass’ because of health issues…you obviously have not watched a catholic mass on tv or you would not be saying ‘they can’t offer the people who watch them on tv anything’ …. also, a person does not have to go into a church, or some other building, to worship, wherever a person is comfortable practicing their faith is the right place !

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  3. Yes, a major aspect of the decline of mainstream churches is the simple social fact that there are fewer non-faith-related reasons for a person to be involved in a church now than when boomers like myself were kids.
    As well, people who wish to express Christian faith feel less of a need to do so as part of a group than before.
    And, sadly, most of the attempts I’ve seen by churches to address these issues seem to focus on cosmetic issues of worship style.

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  4. My sister and I were literally discussing this over lunch <4 hours ago: the typical round and round speculation that didn't seem to find any answers. We kept coming back to the importance of Jesus, not just activities or committees, etc. Then I read your post. Thank you for such a helpful analogy and explanation.

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  5. Agreed! We were talking about this very thing at our Bishop’s Committee meeting on Monday night. I’m going to forward this to the group. Thank you.

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  6. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a small Orthodox congregation which averaged about 8 people a week when I started singing with them in 1999. Average attendance today is better than 50 with Holy Days packing the building to the bursting point. The central focus of the pastor who has overseen this is that the liturgy is truly the work of the people. He is an amazing homilist and has made connections with many of the folks. We have people who drive quite a distance (some right past other orthodox churches on their way). We are a multigenerational, multi ethnic, multi lingual parish and are probably as strong as the parish has ever been in its history. Make the liturgy truly central – make people truly feel as if it is their work … and they will come. Its not about performance, it is about belonging – belonging to one another and to Christ. Peace to you. Mar Stephen

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  7. I mentioned this in a comment on Facebook, but the Church Growth movement isn’t experiencing this (to my knowledge). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Growth I grew up ELCA Lutheran and attended an ELCA university. When I graduated, I joined a church. I was very disappointed in 2003 when my suggestion to have one song from the radio played during a service was rejected. I left that church for another denomination, then another denomination, then another denomination. Some churches aren’t growing, in my opinion, because society has changed and the millennial generation literally have brains that function in a different way. It doesn’t mean that a church has to change the standards by which they live but they do need to change the methods by which they deliver the message, retain current members and then also welcome new members. In the church I was the most involved post-college they literally have a massive group of people dedicated literally to the “first impression” for new visitors. If you get greeted when you enter the Gap, why wouldn’t you at church? But part of the plan has to be to get them to come back, not just say hello. It’s to help them feel welcome, comfortable, and motivated on their own to get involved. And part of that plan has to involve making it COMFORTABLE to come back and easy to get connected in a passive way. If everything is set up to the advantage of people who’ve attended more than a decade, it really doesn’t feel good and unfortunately feeling good is a natural thing that human beings seek out. If you went into Gap, they shook your hand and then didn’t talk to you again you wouldn’t know about the sales they are offering and you wouldn’t know where to find the dressing room. (You’re approached at least 2 more times once in the store.) You might leave being unaware that if you took out a credit card (advertised on the wall of the changing room) you’d save even more money on your purchase. And when you’re about to leave, you might not know that you can sign up for emails. In today’s world, a bulletin isn’t enough. People’s brains do not react to them. Social media is very important because it’s where people are spending their time. In summary, I’m mentioning some concepts used by the business world to retain customers and build a relationship with them. While it may feel backwards to some “old school” Christians, the reality is it’s based in social science – knowing how human beings operate and then using that information to alter their behavior. Why not use that information to help them develop a closer relationship with Jesus Christ and then on their own feel motivated to volunteer to help the church and ultimately change the world?

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    1. Mega churches are a particularly American phenomenon. They are very much a product of American culture, which is precisely what my post is pointing to.

      Research has shown that mega churches have bucked trends of smaller congregations for now, but they too are entering or are about to enter a period of decline. https://www.barna.org/barna-update/millennials/689-designing-worship-spaces-with-millennials-in-mind#.VxDrfcjEinM

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    2. Hi there… you are exactly what the ELCA needs! Pastors that know what people are searching for, feel the passion for the message, and know how to deliver the message! You are very very clear and you are right. Have you considered going to seminary??? Beginning in Fall 2016 semester Gettysburg Seminary is offering free tuition for all ELCA seminarians. A Masters in Divinity and you would be dangerous… except in a good way!

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  8. Reblogged this on revjayg and commented:
    This goes right to the heart of our idea that church growth is not a goal, but a by-product. If we love Jesus, we will love his people; and that involves sharing and inviting people in. If we love our church, we will love our church people; and that usually involves keeping other people out.

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  9. “And so churches try any number of things to attract people back to church. Youth group programs, revamped and modern music, renovated worship spaces, hip and cool pastors with tattoos and any number of other gimmicks.”

    Exactly.

    Every week it’s another episode of “can you top this?” We might consider looking to those churches that are not in decline. My understanding is the Eastern Orthodox are growing by leaps and bounds.

    People are tired of what’s new this week. Trying to please everyone, pleases no one.

    Sameness is predictable, comforting, a break from “social media” and activities for the sake of activity.

    Good old ‘smells and bells’ with industrial strength incense.

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  10. Am thinking of a couple who left our parish when a priest who is gay and married was called. Went to Methodist Church, then a few months later and since attend a megachurch. Couple thousand people with rock band, big screen and “real Bible preaching.” Spoke with him after golf the other evening. After going to this church for almost a couple years, and with all those people, thet don’t really kniw anybody. In other words, from what I gathered during our chat, no real sense of community although it is titled as a Community Church. Ironic. It has long been my belief that we should worship and serve as “community”, that guidance of the HS is best discerned in community.

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    1. It is ironic yes. And I would never claim that community isn’t vital and important to being Christ’s Body. I think it is a matter of priorities. Are we a community that follows Jesus or Jesus followers that form community. Are we a team that plays soccer? Or we are soccer players that make up a team?

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  11. People are figuring out that the mainstream church has gone off the rails. “The church” is the body of Christ as described in the bible. Just take a look at Acts if you want to see what the church is supposed to be. You will see a description of people getting together in fellowship, eating together, helping each other, and discussing the word of God.
    “The church” is not a 501C3 corporation that has entered into a contract with the government. It is not an organization that takes the majority of offerings to God and uses them to purchase commercial properties and sound equipment, and to pay salaries to leaders and pastors and singers and musicians and admins and youth pastors and this and that… instead of using those offereings to do God’s work of caring for widows and orphans and the disabled. The church no longer even teaches what “God’s work” is. Take a look at 2Thes 3:10. When have you ever heard that in a church?
    Those who choose to teach God’s word accept certain responsibilities, and the bible very clearly states that leaders/teachers will be held accountable for their teachings.
    What I’ve learned in recent times by studying the WHOLE bible is that the mainstream church has taught a minimal portion of the truth for years and years and years and years. A partial teaching equals a false teaching.
    What this article fails to mention is that “the church” in America has evolved into “the business of church.” People aren’t buying it anymore. People are seeing through it all.
    God will teach us His word if we take the time to read and pray. James 1:5 says this: ” If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
    It does not say, “Go sit in a building and listen to a single man tell you what he learned in seminary, which are the teachings of other men.”
    If you want to learn God’s word, read it and pray about it. You will learn more in a month than I’ve been taught by “the church” your whole life.
    The mainstream church has failed. I just spent six months or so serving on the board of my last church. The pastor would talk about business tactics and marketing strategy to shape the church’s teaching. He would say things like “recent studies show that if we teach this for four weeks in a row, and then teach this, and then teach this – it will result in giving going up by approx 12%.” His goal was to teach on the psychology of giving, not on God’s word.
    I would listen to this strategizing at board meetings and know the source was a recent book or conference on how to grow your church, but then I’d see the emails go out to the congregation. I’d know it was step 4 of a 7 step series to affect increased financial giving, but the email would say “God is really working through me in this week’s teaching. I can feel the Holy Spirit leading. You don’t want to miss this week’s lesson.”
    It is all a bunch of crap.
    Church leadership needs to get on its knees and repent. Church leadership needs to get in the word and in prayer, instead of getting into the next “How to build a mega-church” conference (and yes, pastors are flocking to these conferences).
    Church leaders need to teach all of God’s word, not the same old stuff over and over again. The same stuff we’ve heard for decades and for generations. Sure, if it is part of the truth, keep teaching it – but teach it along with all of the truth. Sure, God loves us. Sure, Jesus died on the cross for us. That is the very foundation of our faith. But this is just a very beginning point of teaching, not the beginning and the end. All I’ve heard in church in recent years is how God loves me (and I love that message). But if you give a child candy to eat, he will be happy. But if you give him candy for the next meal, and the next meal, and the next meal… soon he will be sick and unhealthy and will not want the candy.
    Our churches have to stop with the hyper-grace-only teaching. Sure, it sounds great at first, but there is so much more. People get tired of that candy.
    Has a modern pastor ever heard of this?
    John 14:15 ““If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
    John 14:23 “Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.” Jesus himself has told us that we have responsibilities. If you give a child no responsibilities and let him eat candy all the time, you end up with a train wreck of a child. If you give a child responsibilities and healthy food (and the occasional treat) you will raise a well rounded child.
    I can’t find anywhere in the bible where we are commanded to go and create 38,000 plus denominations centered upon the doctrine of men. In fact, I see the exact opposite. 1 Cor 1:10: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
    I have not found in the bible where it tells us to incorporate pagan traditions and ceremonies into ‘Christianity’. Somebody please tell me what Easter has to do with Passover? It doesn’t. Easter is the celebration of Ishtar, the goddess of fertility. Pagan religious leaders would rape virgins at a time when they would be impregnated and have babies before Spring. Then, they would sacrifice the babies to Ishtar. Eggs would be dyed in the infant blood, which is where easter eggs come from. Horrible stuff. Does Jesus want to be honored with this tradition? Absolutely not.
    Same goes for Christmas. I’ve heard many pastors talk about how December 25 has nothing to do with Jesus’ real birth. Why was December 25th adopted? It was adopted by Constantiine in approx 326AD, following his pagan traditions of Saturnalia worship.
    Speaking of Constantine, he is the one who changed the day of worship from the biblical Sabbath on Saturday (last day of the week, as God demonstrated for us in the story of Creation) to Sunday, the first day of the week, in honor of his sun god.
    God tells us this in Deuteronomy 12: “When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30 take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.”
    The modern mainstream church keeps pagan traditions instead of following God’s teaching. They defy God’s teaching in Deuteronomy 12.
    People are leaving the church because the church is not doing the will of God. Sure, there are good men in the church. But until they repent and follow God, they will be spinning their wheels, and they will be held accountable for their failings.

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    1. I think the church you describe is problematic indeed.

      The mainline church certainly has its problems, but one the things going for it is adherence to the lectionary. This means we preach through most of the bible every 3 years, and tell the full story of Jesus each year according to the seasons of the church year.

      A few bullet points:
      – The church’s practice of Pascha (passion) was long established around passover before ever being associated with Easter in the English language. Easter may be associated to Ishtar, but it also may be associated the germanic Oster meaning east. Either wait the associate of the season of resurrection is only a linguistic convention.
      – Dec 25 has nothing to do with Saturnalia. Dec 25 is 9 months after March 25th, the day of Mary’s conception (which the Hebrew people found important to may either the conception date or death date of prophets).
      – Sunday has always been the day of worship for Christians, since it is the day of the resurrection (Early on the first day of the week the women went to the tomb).

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      1. As a matter of church history the early Christians did indeed keep the Sabbath as did Jesus himself and His apostles ,they keep the Sabbath and met on the Lord’s Day, they were persecuted for keep the Sabbath so they met in secret , fact of history in the 1st century, Constantine himself hunted them down for keeping the Sabbath instead of Sunday

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  12. Insightful and thought provoking article, thank you. I feel you hit the point in asking “what is our shared love”. I can’t help but wonder what Christ would be focusing on, in church today?

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  13. There are lots of churches growing (and declining). I’m part of St. Albans Ottawa – and we’ve been growing … and learning …. in Christ since we planted 4 years ago ….

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  14. I am an Episcopalian, and in two communities in which I have lived I have been amazed at the growth and reach of a church that seems to be reaching the unchurched and those who have given up on church. North point Church and its satellites – amazing. Energy and commitment that is infectious. People of all ages – including a large dose of Millenials. There are times I am tempted to move – but sacramental energy of our worship keeps me where I am. There are some churches out there reaching Millenials – just not reflected in national numbers.

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  15. I became a “done” about a year ago, after barely hanging in for many years before that. The longer I’m away the more feckless and embarrassing the whole contemporary church project appears. I’ve come to realize that I don’t need church to do the “Jesus is my personal Lord and savior” thing, that happens to be going better than ever now that I’m out of the bubble that blinds and exploring the many streams of the faith. But I can see that I do need others with a similar passion to help me live out the hard realities of the cruciform way.

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  16. People were attending church in droves, long before social media and TV were around. And it wasn’t until I married a Protestant minister that I met people who were part of a church community because it was a social obligation. ( Although I am absolutely sure there were people attended mass because of social pressure)…so I think you have yourself in a bit of a bind. Perhaps people are finding other ways to love and serve Jesus- and it probably doesn’t happen on Sunday morning between 10:00 and 11:00AM. Nor does that need to happen in a church-structured environment. Perhaps for some people there is no longer a need for an institutional church. Is that a bad thing or is it something that we need to celebrate? Is your church environment better than my work environment when it comes to loving and serving Jesus? Old saying of “let go and let aGod comes to mind. Blessings on your ministry…

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  17. Reblogged this on George's Diary and commented:
    What really happened to Churches is that we used its gathering to replace social meetings, it became much more of a place of meeting people than a place of focusing on God. It became a place where people are discussed than a place where God is the subject.

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  18. The Church isn’t really about gathering people, the Church isn’t about finding solution to our social needs, the Church isn’t about stacking same people together… The Church isn’t an alternative for other clubs and religious gatherings. Yet, that is what many mainstream Churches has made out of it. They feel you must do so and so before you become a full member… That alone paints a picture that the Church is the same as being member of a rotary club… Rotary club does charity after all! There is less or no attachment in Churches! It is usually now all about living in peace with Muslims, finding ways to reconcile with the worlds ideology, finding a strong stand in politics… In so doing, the Church is loosing it’s flavour! When it is not all about Jesus, it is about nothing!

    The Apostles recorded breakthrough because God added to their numbers but what is happening today? How do we expect God to add to our number when what we do is no about Church?

    As an Anglican, I have always been viewed as a potential threat by some Anglican Pastors because I questioned the role we are playing in the world today… Denominational orientation has spoiled it all! For crying out loud we are Christians before we became Anglicans or Pentecostals or Catholics… What role are we playing then? Instead of raising people for God, we are raising people for our denominations… Instead of preaching Jesus, we are preaching peace and reconciliation!

    Trust me, peace isn’t our message, reconciliation isn’t our message…. Our message should be Jesus! In him we find peace!

    Thanks you for the post… I reblogged it, I rarely do that on my blog.

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  19. I find it kind of funny that a lot of posts/articles similar to this are focused on people who attend church speculating about the reasons why other people don’t attend church instead of asking those people why they don’t attend. I’d imagine you’d probably get a wide range of answers but it should be worth more than guessing.

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    1. You are right. When I get the chance to ask this kind of question in person I do, but it is something that will take a shift in perspective form many church goers. And part of my reason for writing is to start that first step of offering new perspectives

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      1. For what its worth, I’ll answer. I stopped going to church when religion and politics became enmeshed. When the “gospel of prosperity” turned scripture into an orwellian world of power-worship, group-think and consumer-culture-driven selfishness. When the message consistently became “love one another, except for that one extraordinarily unrepentant group of sinners over there.” When the music became indistinguishable from a busy Friday night at Applebees. Community and ministry are important to me, and I’ve been able accomplish both outside of the traditional brick and mortar. Attempts to appeal to “youth” will fail, as long as the Sunday morning experience mirrors the high school clique-ishness they are trying desperately to evade. Just my cents, thanks for reading.

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  20. I’m not sure what to do with the terminology. Isn’t following Jesus also a social commitment? It just feels like chasing after the ever-elusive evangelical mojo. It’s always “all about Jesus” for the evangelicals, but maybe it’s really all about the singles ministry or the hot worship leader’s biceps. What if “energy and commitment” are actually just words we use for people who look like they’re winning so we want to join them?

    All I know is I don’t have the mojo. And it isn’t for lack of prayer or passion about Jesus. I don’t look like I’m winning. I look like I’m trying to win. So I’m asking God to help me stop trying, surrender to him, etc, because that’s what we evangelicals are trained to do. But maybe it actually has more to do with the fact that I don’t tell good jokes and I have crooked teeth.

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    1. I totally hear you! It is terminology that I struggle to express as well. I think there is some cultural differences at play. We really don’t have the same kind of evangelical industrial complex in Canada. The top four denominational groups are still mainline here, and secularism occupies a far larger cultural space.

      But Canada also hasn’t had the same separation of church and state (think British empire). I think we have a deeper enmeshment between Christianity and citizenship – at least for those remaining at the core of the mainline.

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  21. When I was young I walked to church across town every Sunday because my parents didn’t attend but I wanted to. I continued to have a deep connection to my church but as I aged I began to feel that all of our work and commitment was going to decorate the church or build more buildings and was centered within. I felt our time and effort should have been spent on reaching out to our community. Example: We used to have pancake breakfasts on Easter and it was said as a way to reach out to the community but they charged a fee for the meal. It wasn’t a large fee but as a single mother of two young boys it was more than I could pay so how many others that needed to hear about God were in the same boat. My efforts to make our group see that all the collecting and building was for naught if it was only for us. I stopped attending church but that does not mean my faith in God or his son Jesus has diminished one tiny bit. I just think we need to be looking outside the buildings to our fellow man. I once heard someone complain that they couldn’t understand why God didn’t send angels down to help us and someone else said “Why should he have to send Angels all the way down from heaven when he has all of us to help each other.” That’s what I try to do now.

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  22. Is Church is a destination, or is it merely part of the journey, it may be your tune up shop, or a place to share and care. Recalibrate your GPS or compass. Have a good drink to refresh your soul, or recharge your smartphone of life. It’s not your retirement home, or your house on the hill. It can be your ATM or Credit Union of Love, were you can make deposits and receive dividends. Maybe a coop of love.

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  23. YES. So good. Thank you.
    I’ve also noticed that people in my parents’ generation started going to church when they had kids, in their 20’s. Some people in my generation did likewise; had kids, suddenly developed interest in community and spirituality. But for all us millennials who are waiting into our 30s, the same pull doesn’t exist.

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  24. Plato. The answer is Plato. It all goes back to Plato. Either there is an ideal world or there is not. The reason most Christians can’t see the bus that has run over their flock is because most of these people haven’t understood the societal forces at work. I know Americans tend to avoid reading ‘philosophy’ but the real assault against Christian values goes beyond good and evil. Nietzsche argued that the ideal world is a myth and most of the world has picked up a ‘lazy version’ of the original tune. Soccer is real, sleeping in is real. The job of Christianity in the future is to argue on behalf of the ideal, that ideals are real and that means going back to Plato. It was never Nietzsche vs Jesus. Jesus was just collateral damage in his war against Plato. It all comes down to Plato. Is there an ideal world or are ideals just invented myths? That’s the job that faces Christianity in the future.

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  25. The article is pointed in the right direction, but doesn’t reach an actionable conclusion. What would it look like for church folks to gather on Sunday morning and demonstrably follow Jesus? How can church fellowship and/or membership enhance or empower a commitment to follow Christ (in recognizable ways not readily available to non churchgoers?)

    The writer uses the analogy of soccer players coming to a gathering where people talk about soccer while they drink coffee and eat donuts but never actually play soccer. How does our Sunday morning gathering we call “worship” need to change to break this analogy? How can we gather on Sunday mornings and do what the Bible calls worship: caring for the proverbial widows and orphans.

    Perhaps one way is that churches gather on Sunday morning and engage in a much more interactive experience three-fold experience. First, the Sunday morning experience should INSPIRE. Many of our churches do this fairly well. The Sunday morning (or Wednesday evening, or any other “worship” gathering) should teach those gathered particular ways to follow Jesus and inspire them to do just that.

    Our “worship” gatherings should EQUIP. People need resources they can employ as they seek to act on the inspiration to follow Jesus. What if churches became resource centers that provided up-to-date volunteer opportunities, background checks, and training so inspired followers of Christ could *immediately* act on the inspiration they received and live the gospel?

    Finally, “worship” needs to CELEBRATE what God has done and is doing in and through the gathered followers of Christ. This is where interactivity is crucial. We need to give people the means to speak out, text to a live message board on a visible screen, tweet, Instagram, and Facebook the ways they have taken action to follow Christ. We need to hear every week, positive reinforcement of the community’s concrete benefit in empowering its members to be good news. Imagine people standing and saying a few words or messaging to a screen in the sanctuary their experience of making a difference in the name of Christ over the preceding week!

    Any two or three people can manifest the presence of Christ in the world, and more and more are doing just that without any concrete connection to the brick and mortar church. If we want brick and mortar church to continue being a meaningful, beneficial presence in our communities, I think we need to re-imagine our “worship.”

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  26. Really? I’ll give you an outsider’s perspective. The church has failed its primary mission of loving ministry and embraced bible literalism. It is my opinion that bible literalism is a primary cause of atheism. Reading the bible with a christian heart as a stand alone document leads to some very uncomfortable questions, such as the problem of evil and Pascal’s wager. Worse, if some parts of the bible or mistranslated the validity of the whole text is called into question. Why do prominent christian politicians insist on marginalizing the gay community? Or why aren’t adulterers as strongly condemned? Are we not all flawed souls in need of redemption? Why aren’t christians ecstatic about rising immigration from non-christian countries? Isn’t this your target audience being brought your very door? The church abandoned its commitment to support scientific research when the results conflicted with the established teachings. If a church has no commitment, abandons the disenfranchised and consistently does a worse job of uplifting the poor than the secular government then why does it deserve to exist? Get a message and bring back church discipline.

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