Last year, Thom and Joani Schultz released the book with a title that, ironically, was the title of an blog I had written about the same time, entitled, "Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore."Both their book and the blog I wrote went off the charts in terms of readership.
Why? You probably know the answer to that question. And, if you're a religious leader, you've been growing increasingly alarmed at the growing number of people who have been, and still are, giving up on "organized religion."
There are some hopeful signs, however. It seems that some clergy persons are beginning to pay attention and stop labeling the defectors from "organized religion" as defectors from the faith. Which of course they are not, at least, not the majority of them.
The unthinking leaders who make that argument, however, and many still making it, mistakenly think that they being "faithful" to the truth. In reality, they are being blind to their own faults. Jesus spoke about the religious establishment of his day in similar critical ways that those leaving are saying about the church today. But they, too, were blind to their own faults and to the criticism of Jesus. What's interesting is that the "blind" in both instances do not know they are blind. In as much as they think they see, they are blind all the more.
Last year's book by the Thom and Joani Schultz didn't really offer anything new to the conversation that many of us have been engaged for several years. But their book did serve to reach many people and, thankfully, it has done much good in helping the blind who want to be made well. It has helped them to begin to see possibilities for transforming an institution that is undeniably dying. And, will die, if change does not come.
That does not mean the Church in America will disappear. But it means the Church in the U.S. will become more and more marginalized and disregarded by the mainstream in much the same way as the Church has in Europe.
I have not read this new book yet, as it was just brought to my attention today. But I am hopeful the Schulzs' will continue their important and needed conversation and go even farther in challenging the status quo, as well as offering ways the Church must change or resign itself to an inevitable fate.
This statement, however, I've been thinking about a great deal as well: Why nobody wants to be around Christians anymore.
I have a few thoughts of my own on this. I'd be interested in reading yours, too. Leave them in the comment section please.
1. For one thing, nobody wants to be around Christians anymore because too many of them are judgmental. And, that judgment is felt most strongly by the LGBT community. These Christians call judgment-making -- so they have a presumed permission to do it -- "knowing others by their fruits."
Those leaving the Church faster than George Bush Jr. left the public scene following his presidency, however, see through this hypocrisy. And, in their leaving, they are happily discovering there is faith beyond the sacred walls. Consequently, these believing persons are migrating those places in numbers that Christian conservatives would have called a new "spiritual awakening" - had, of course, those believers been filling pews instead of Starbucks on Sunday mornings. These are gathering, however, in spiritually-minded groups on the web, on Facebook, in coffee shops, in small house churches, and... who knows but what this will lead to a spiritual revolution. The unfortunate thing is, however, many churches will miss out on this awakening.
2. Nobody wants to be around Christians anymore because many of them deny the truth of science and evolution. And, frankly, the world of thinking people are now more and more so beyond this creation science nonsense that they want nothing to do with people who want to live in the make-believe world where dinosaurs and humans camp out together under the night sky.
The whole damn thing is so laughable to the world that religious people are having to leave the church because pastors in pulpits who are anti-education (but, interestingly, they all have "Dr." in front of their names - isn't that a joke?) these pastors still preach creation science as if it is actually science. It's not even good pseudo-science.
3. Nobody wants to be around Christians because far too many of them regard the Bible as the "infallible, inerrant Word of God" the same way militant fundamentalists regard the Koran as divinely dictated and given to humanity.
I've got news for both misguided groups. Neither book fell out of the heavens and both are filled with violence, hatred, wrong views on virtually every topic imaginable, and anybody who says differently is only admitting how little they know the Bible.
Frankly, people leaving the Church are tired of Bible worship - idolatry in its worst expression.
I am a Christian who loves the Bible and I look to it for guidance every day. Much of it, in fact, I have committed to memory. That's right. And, I'm proud of it. And, those wonderful passages come to my mind at just the right moment I need them. But I do not worship the Bible. And, while I have not left the Church, I fully understand why millions of believing people have. They simply can't stomach any longer sitting under what is disguised as "Biblical" preaching and teaching while ministers declare "The Bible says..." and then engage in some political posturing on a moral issue of the day.
4. Nobody wants to be around Christians anymore because far too many of them still pretend that their way of believing and thinking is "right" and everyone else's way of thinking and believing, or not believing for that matter, is wrong. I've written extensively about this in The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God. So there is no reason to elaborate here.
Thinking people are tired of this and they know this kind of attitude will not work in a pluralistic world. More and more people are working nine-to-five, or whatever their schedules, and they are doing so beside people of a variety of faith traditions, as well as beside those who are agnostic and atheistic. They are discovering many different ways that valid truth can be found and experienced in many different places. As a consequence, they are no longer willing to sit in pews and listen to preachers pretend that, when Jesus said, "I am the way... nobody comes to the Father but by Me" (Jn 14:6) that Jesus was starting a new religion and arguing that anybody who didn't join HIS new religion... his new way... or bow down to him... he would condemn them to hell.
It's madness. Such theology won't work in today's world. It might have worked in the southern states back at the turn of the twentieth-century when everybody lived in a little world where there was only one God. But it won't work in today's world.
You don't have to like that... heck, you don't even have to agree with it. But, if you're serious about rescuing your dying church from its rendezvous with death itself, you'd better soften, compromise, re-think your theology... it really doesn't matter what you call it... but, if you want your church world to stop diminishing, you had better wise up and pay close attention to what those leaving your pews are trying to say to you.
Now, I'll stop here and seek to secure a copy of Thom and Joani's new book and see what they have to say. I hope you'll do the same.
With an open heart.
Oh, the book can be found on Amazon.
Hi, my name is Steve McSwain. I'm a christian thinker, blogger, writer, and rabble-rouser. I invite you to let me challenge you with the provocative, sometimes controversial, things I think about...write about. I do not ask you to agree. I ask you only to consider...to think for yourself...to forge a real-world faith for yourself. You are not doing yourself, or the Kingdom, any favors by believing God has appointed you guardian of the truth - no matter what you think the truth is - or the gatekeeper to keep out those who threaten you. Whatever God is, she doesn't need defending. The Bible doesn't need your worship either. Both have been around a lot longer than you have and will be here long after you're forgotten. Visit my website, if you don't have anything else to do, and check out my "Inspirational Talks" page. I'll speak in almost any setting...business gatherings or religious gatherings, with talks appropriate for both. See for yourself.