The Attraction Distraction
What was once a murmur has become a roar! What is now a roar is becoming a revolution! The stats are in and the truth is graphically clear: Christian churches are in decline. Attendance is shrinking. The numbers look bad.
Now the frenzy of analysis begins. Why are we declining? What can be done about it? Do we need to build a new building or maybe move to a better location? Do we need to hire or fire some staff members? Should we bring in a consultant? Is a Family Life Centre (gymnasium) required? Do we need to remodel our “worship services?” Should we add instruments to the singing? What’s going wrong? HELP!
The Christian Chronicle has begun addressing the problem. A friend of mine recently posed this question publicly and received input from all over the brotherhood of churches of Christ. The range of possible malefactors and solutions was amazing. Nearly everyone agrees that something is going wrong. Perhaps it is the movement from a rural to an urban base. Perhaps is it postmodernism. Perhaps it is growing religious pluralism.
One thing is for sure: Satan loves it! After all, he is winning on every front. He has us right where he wants us: inside our buildings and halls and homes…out of sight…out of his way. You may have noticed that when you or your church dares to venture into the streets and marketplaces is when the trouble begins. Churches and individuals who dare to venture into Satan’s turf become Satan’s targets. Persecution begins in its many forms: ridicule, rejection, ostracism, vandalism, even physical violence. We will draw the devil’s fire. It is uncomfortable, costly, painful, exhausting, demeaning and dangerous. It takes a mature, Holy Spirit-fueled, faith-fired determination to keep from pulling back into more comfortable invisibility.
Perhaps this is why we have concentrated on attraction rather than dispersal.
Most of our strategy consists largely of getting people to “come to church.” (Yes, most of us still use “church” in this incorrect way.) We urge our members to invite their friends to “come to church.” We have a gospel mission or a campaign to get folks to “come to church.” Many of our signs invite the public to “come worship with us (in church)”, and assure everyone that “visitors are welcome.” We have a special speaker or hold a special event and invite people to “come to church.” We hold a Vacation or Holiday Bible School to get children and their families into our building or hall. We have a special luncheon or barbeque to get folks to at least venture closer to the church. It is attraction, attraction, attraction….to our location, location, location.
Attraction’s not working very well these days, is it?
The saying is true and worthy of all acceptance: if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we’ve got! And friends, that’s not much. Perhaps we need to back up and take a look at the New Testament. Where do we find the scriptural basis (or “pattern” if you wish) for attracting people to a location? The crowds converged on Jesus because he and his disciples had dispersed among the towns and villages doing good works and preaching the kingdom, right? Think that might work for us?
There is only one cure for decline and it is a simple one: “Go…and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19)