Americans have turned away from church. According to Barna Research, on a typical Sunday, only 40% attend church. The fastest growing religious category in America is “none.” Many see the church as irrelevant, hypocritical, and institutional. So, they reject it.
But it’s worth noting that 132 million Americans ARE in church on Sunday! What else does 40% of America show up for weekly? Obviously, many still see value and meaning in church. I’m one of them. Maybe the problem is not the church but a misunderstanding of what “church” is.
Church to me is not a building. It’s people building up each other – people like Robert Wells who took the time when I was adolescent with questions and doubts to help me find answers and faith.
Church to me is not out of touch with reality. It is where reality is found. Sweet, patient ladies like Elizabeth Arthur and Lora Thaxton and others didn’t just teach me as a child that God made the universe and me; they allowed me to experience the reality of his love from them.
Church to me doesn’t make demands of me. It gives to me. It’s where I found my wife without whom life would have been dull gray instead of full color. It’s where I learned principles that led me to enjoy a blessed life.
Church to me is not a formal ritual. It’s a family gathering where friends have celebrated with me the birth and the birthdays of my children – and every other milestone in my life.
Church to me is not stained-glass. It’s the tear-stained faces of people who cried with me when my father died and again when my mother died. Faces that illuminate the face of God in ways no window could.
Church to me is not out of touch. It’s has not only touched me, but it touched my children as men and women of faith helped them be touched by God.
Church to me is not a bunch of hypocrites. It’s a collection of people who hold in common our awareness that we are imperfect. We do church not because we are good, but because we want to become better.
Church to me is not the inventor of a story about Jesus rising from the dead. Church is the result of people hearing from eyewitnesses the story of Jesus rising from the dead.
Church to me is not an option for those who follow Jesus. It is simply what you call those who are following him. Those in Christ are the church.
Some have turned away from church. Jesus, however, embraced it. He invented it, and he loves it like a young man loves his bride. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Maybe he sees something in the church that some of us haven’t. Maybe we should look again.