USA Today just reported recently on their blog site that more Americans are tailoring their religion to fit their needs. This was based on George Barna’s research on which I posted an earlier blog.
It doesn’t surprise me at all in this postmodern, fragmented culture.
Professional “church” leadership such as me could lament the good ole days when the pastor was revered and the church was held in high esteem by society. But, to be honest, there’s no lament from me! There’s no rejoicing either. Just cold, hard reality. This is a consequence of reformation ideals. We protest, we diversify, we democratize, we rail against the system, and we split up. I am a consummate Protestant!
It is the reality of the priesthood of all believers.
Pastors today minister in a radically different environment from the past. We are no longer the “good” guys. People eye us with suspicion. We get blamed for everything! Why doesn’t the church grow? It’s because the Pastor’s sermons are boring. Why are we dissatisfied with the church? Because the Pastor is a compromiser.
This is how USA Today put it:
Barna blames pastors for those oddly contradictory findings. Everyone hears, “Jesus is the answer. Embrace him. Say this little Sinners Prayer and keep coming back. It doesn’t work. People end up bored, burned out and empty,” he says. “They look at church and wonder, ‘Jesus died for this?'”
Don’t think whoever wrote this article took that from Barna! Or maybe we’re reading different articles entirely. Notwithstanding the “Barna blames pastors,” misquote–sounds rather like a Freudian slip–it is nevertheless true that many disillusioned, non-churchgoing folk do indeed blame their lack of church attendance on the professional clergy. Sounds like Adam and Eve in the garden.
Yet this does not mean less religiosity in America. The two paradoxical statements about our current religious climate:
More people claim they have accepted Jesus as their savior and expect to go to heaven.
And more say they haven’t been to church in the past six months except for special occasions such as weddings or funerals.
That’s interesting! I remember one of the pioneers of contemporary Christian music, Keith Green, saying, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to McDonald’s will make you a hamburger.” And that mentality contributes to the Designer Faith culture we have today! Who needs church? Ain’t it all about a personal relationship with Jesus?
Yes, except a personal relationship with Jesus means more than a self-centered, “what can God do for ME?” individualism. And let’s be honest, some of this is indeed the product of childish, superficial, egocentric, and spoiled personalities resulting from an overabundance of material goods coupled with an entitlement culture.
But not all of it. There really are some very thoughtful people disillusioned with the church today. And there really are some seriously evil professional clergy out there. And church becomes irrelevant when it stagnates and develops into a monolithic institution rather than a living, breathing dynamic called the body of Christ.
Articles like this actually make it seem as if the situation is more dire than it is. Sure, old, institutional churches and denominations that do not adapt go the way of the dinosaur. But the church as the worldwide body of Christ is healthier than ever. Today there are more professed Christians with vigorous and healthy churches growing in the South and East than at any other time in history. There are literally thousands of new church plants a day, including America.