Thursday, October 20, 2005


I just found this about Barna's new book from Matt Payne's blog. I've been thinking a lot lately about the difference between generations as we're used to them and the shift toward a new post-modern culture. I think this may be what Barna is touching. Let me know if anyone gets the book. Someone needs to read it. ;-) The article is here.

I keep asking, "If we make a shift toward small communities of small groups and people are finding worship, teaching, care and impact in those communities, then why will they continue to come out on Sunday mornings?" I know there are some answers, but I haven't heard great ones. Barna might suggest that there are two distinct groups emerging--those who will use Sunday to be a family and those who will come to church as a family. There may be a true divergence of thought and need emerging. I'm intrigued.


Hankinstien said...

I also am fascinated by these ideas--I haven't read your links yet, but after I do later tonight, I'll probably post another comment.

Hankinstien said...

Okay, I just skimmed through most of that article, and its fascinating. The most interesting part of this whole thing to me can be summed up in this quote: "there is a much larger segment of Americans who are currently leaving churches precisely because they want more of God in their life but cannot get what they need from a local church."

I know dozens of people that have done this very thing, and I would probably be one of them, if not for the fact that I work at a church. What this shows me is that the Church isn't doing what it set out to do. By embracing a watered-down, simplistic, "seeker-friendly" "feel-ggod" kindof attitude, we are alienating the very people that care about their relationship with God. I love the idea of getting "Church" out of the sanctuary and into living rooms. My only real worry with a massive de-centralization is that people's theology might become completely errant. Without someone knowledgeable as a guide, people can easily get on the wrong track about what the Bible really says. I have more to say on this, but this comment is too long as it is...
Thats a good question though steve--why should we come sunday mornings? I mean really. If there is a better way to reach people and grow than the traditional sunday gathering, then why not embrace it? I better be careful, cause if I continue this line of thinking, then I'm arguing myself out of a job.

Steve said...

By embracing a watered-down, simplistic, "seeker-friendly" "feel-ggod" kindof attitude, we are alienating the very people that care about their relationship with God.

I'm not sure it's this simple. This is not a movement away from deep sermons; it might be a movement away from bigness or away from busyness. Many of these folks are probably competing with hectic schedules and may simply be claiming Sunday mornings as home time, or time when they won't drive far (and therefore have some friends meet in their homes). I need to see the book.

I think it's too big a sweep to say that people who like a large Sunday gathering are people who "don't care about their relationship with God." I know a lot of them and that's simply not the case.

What this shows me is that the Church isn't doing what it set out to do.

If people are trading a service for opportunities to be the church in their neighborhoods or offices, isn't that exactly what the church set out to do? Maybe we've all been working ourselves out of jobs and it's working??

deersnake said...

I think the doctrinal point that Mike brings up is good. Many people aren't scholars of the Bible and out of simple ignorance could become, dare I say, false teachers to a certain extent.

I personally think people don't make time to come to church or stop coming regularly because they feel uninspired, unchallenged, and unfed. Those same people aren't, in my humble opinion, going to put forth the energy and effort to contribute to smaller community worship. That model seems "harder" because it's less structured and everyone has more responsibility in order to make it work.

I'm not personally fed by "feel good" theology, but it reaches a lot of people and has brought some people I know to Christ and brought others back to the church. I think I'll explore this some more on mine - thanks Steve & Mike!

I still struggle with the basic question - what are we trying to accomplish? Maybe I should know and I've just missed the boat or maybe the answer is vague and that's part of the issue.

I do think that you can reach different people in that community model, but I don't know if that translates to "more" people or not.

Hankinstien said...

Looking at my other post, I think you're misunderstanding me, which probably has something to do with the dumb ways in which I stated things.

You're right: its a generalization to say that all church attendance loss is because of watered down sermons. However, I do think its a widespread problem. The sermons around here have been getting a little deeper lately, which I appreciate. However, many churches have gotten so watered down, that they refuse to talk about the "blood of Christ" or anything like that which MIGHT be considered slightly offensive. This is a horrible attitide which I'm sure pushes away some people who are really wanting to go deeper in their faith. I think even at a place like BT, which is deeper than a lot of churches, there are those that leave because of a lack of depth. Are there other reasons? Sure. Busy-ness is a big one (maybe equal to lack of depth). However, this points to another problem:

Some people go to church with a "give-me" kindof attitude, thinking, "this church must meet all my needs/wants specifically or I'm outta here!" People with this attitude don't care about serving, or making it better, all they care about is themselves. Ironic, that their desire to have a deeper walk can turn selfish. It's not the church's responsibilty (ultimately) to see individuals grow--individuals should be responsibe for that. The church can provide some of the means for that, but leaving a church becasue you're "above it" seems silly. I have to battle this attitude in myself sometimes. That said, I would still like to see an increase in in-depth teaching in most churches, because I think more people can handle it than we might think. But I think that the best learning takes place in a small group where you interact with the material, being able to ask questions, etc. Statistics on learning techniques back-me up on this (I'll need to find a link later) but I wonder if some of that might be generational. hmmm...

What I meant by the point about the church not doing what it set out to do is (ironically) basically what you said. By trading a service for opportunities to work in the community, the church (people) are doing EXACTLY what the church should do. What I meant with that statement was to show the irony that people are leaving "churches" to go "act like the church." I didn't mean to imply that every church is a failure, rather, to say that some churches are not identifying this need that the people leaving churches have, or maybe they don't know how to respond to it. I mean, I'm not sure how to respond to it... All this points back to the question, "what should a church look like?" There has to be a balance between the small group, "in the trenches" kindof thing, and the large group stuff. Focusing only on one or the other is very limiting, and is probably dangerous.

Sometimes I think there's a hang up between what the congregation thinks the church should be, and what the leaders think the church should be. If someone leaves a church, is it because there is a flaw in the church, or a flaw in the person (such as the one mentioned above)? As usual, both are probably at work.

There's no easy answers, and its made harder by the apparent shift our culture seems to be taking currently. I like churches that are willing to ask these questions and wrestle with it. Whats hard is to ask those questions, be constantly trying to improve, and still maintain a sense of "this is the goal we're moving twoard--this is where we're going as a church." Sometimes I feel BT is a bit rudderless, like we're not sure of where we're going, so we make a lot of drastic changes over and over as we get new ideas, insteda of making course corrections as we move twoard a goal. A good portion of that feeling went away after todays meetings, but theres still some things at the back of my mind bugging me...

Is that enough disclaimer? I'm really not as bitter or cynical as I seem... okay, maybe I am...