I grew up thinking full-throttle vitamin D milk with no percentage number was good for me. Now I’m being told that not only is that incorrect, that now I need to drink milk that doesn’t come from a cow but is somehow squeezed out of an almond. Doesn’t even have a percentage sign or different color cap, either.
I don’t know who to believe, frankly.
Same for those who are putting the stats out there regarding the decline in attendance at churches. I’ve read that young people are leaving in droves. Some say they aren’t. I’ve read they come back when they have kids. Others say they leave forever. Some say their departure is no different than generations before. Others say this exodus is unique.
I don’t know who to believe, there, either.
But what nobody is denying is there is a marked decline in church attendance in recent years. Of course, there is disagreement as to “why” and “how,” but the numbers are in on that reality.
The reasons for this? I don’t know exactly. My guess is the reasons are as varied as the folks leaving. I did find a good, short read with some insights in Tim Soerens’ Relevant Magazine article How the Local Movement is Revitalizing Church: The church is rediscovering the power of thinking big by staying small. Worth a read.
I think we need to look at the “why” folks are leaving, sure. They’ll point us to the “how” of our response. I think N.T. Wright is on to something on the “how” of our response in his book Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues.
After a discussion about the doubt Thomas showed at the resurrection of Jesus, he says:
The question for us, as we learn again and again the lessons of hope for ourselves, is how we can be for the world what Jesus was for Thomas: how we can who the world the signs of love, how we can reach out our hands in love, wounded though they will be if love has been true, how we can invite those whose hearts have grown shrunken and shriveled with sorrow and disbelief to come and see what love has done, what love is doing, in our communities, our neighborhoods: the works of justice and beauty that speak of God’s new creation, the works of healing and new life that should abound in our hospices and detention centers, our schools and our countryside. It is when the church is out there making all that happen, not waiting for permission or encouragement but simply doing what Christian people from the very beginning have always done, that suddenly resurrection makes sense, and people who were formerly skeptical find their hearts and minds transformed so that they say, with Thomas ‘My Lord and My God.’ Yes, it might’ve been better had they believed without seeing. But Jesus isn’t fussy.
And this gets at the heart of our response, no?
How can we show the world the signs of love? They don’t want to see the signs of our arguments. They don’t want to see the signs of our politics. They don’t want to see our fancy smorgasbord of Sunday service & ministry offerings. They don’t want to see our Tribe disengage from the world. They don’t want to see what we fear. They want to see what we’re for.
And we should be for showing love and seeking ways to do that in the places He has already placed us.
So, a couple of thoughts:
Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
What are some practical ways YOU were shown love in your search/journey that stand out?
What are some practical ways you can pay it forward?