I’m reading a lot lately about why today’s church is struggling. Struggling to meet the needs of their members and ultimately struggling to keep their doors open.
There is an ongoing silent migration away from the church of an estimated 3,500 individuals each and every day.
A recent study indicated that over 1.2 million people will leave the church in the next year.
Several factors are contributing to this trend, but the majority of individuals who are leaving the church report that they no longer feel connected. The movement away from the church has been ongoing for several decades. The number of churches that are closing their doors every year is leading to an overall decline in church attendance.
It is estimated that over 10,000 churches will close their doors in 2017.
This has led to a growing host of Christians who no longer have a place to connect with other believers. One article declares ‘we are not meeting the needs of the Millennials’ and another proclaims our irrelevance to the culture around us.
When asked about the importance of church in their lives, 80% of 14-33 year olds reported that church was ‘not important’ to them. They have very different preferences of what church should look like compared to their parents.
It seems there are more reasons for this problem than we could fix.
If we tried to do them all we would become even more irrelevant that we are proclaimed to be already.
So, what do we do?
For me it always goes back to the basics, the fundamentals. What were we commanded to do? That’s where we must begin.
If we focus our attention on this generational change we will lose our way and get lost in pleasing a culture that is more fickle than any that has ever been in the history of man.
What are they and what does that mean to my life IF I claim I’m a follower of Christ?
That ‘if’ is crucial.
IF I claim I’m a Christian, a Christ follower, then I have instructions from Christ himself that frame who I am and how I live.
They are not suggestive, they are mandatory.
If I simply declare them irrelevant to our time and culture, I’m declaring Christ irrelevant and his instructions as optional. If we do that then let’s find another religion.
This one is done.
So, as simply as I can, let’s cover the basics as Jesus gave them.
“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Love God, love people.
It comes back to the very essence of what God has made us to be and do.
We were made for love, to give it and receive it.
When I sense I’m loved I draw in closer to the person who loves me.
We all long for love, real love that loves us even when the person really knows us, knows what we are like and loves us anyway.
God loved us first and invites us into this lifestyle of being loved, loving him and others in response.
It’s the essence of what Christianity is all about.
If I know God loves me I’m drawn to Him, changed by Him and become like Him in how I respond to others. I, too, begin to love.
When we get that right a world hungry for real love will be drawn to us, not the church first, but to the real Christ followers.
When they know they are loved then we can begin to talk about the real lover of our souls, God himself.
The gathering of a bunch of Christ followers loving well is called a church.
The reason we are losing our impact in our culture is we have lost our instruction manual.
I have to admit that I am ashamed of one aspect of being a believer in my younger years. I was critical of those who struggled in their walk with Christ.
I was too quick to judge and not to love.
I am still working on that to this very day. Sometimes that “old man” that I was raises his head every now and then.
I have learned that when this happens I have to go back to the basics and start over.
Here’s the instruction manual.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ And, Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Let’s get back to the basics.