|1.||a building for public Christian worship.|
|2.||a body of Christians worshipping in a particular building or constituting one congregation: She is a member of this church.|
I live in Santa Rosa County Florida - reportedly one of the areas in the United States where there is a very high per capita incidence of churches. I don't have handy access to demographics - folks charge for that sort of data now - but by all accounts, despite our large number of buildings to worship in, 4 out of 5 people in Santa Rosa county are considered unchurched.
I started thinking about that today and here are my thoughts...
1. A lot of people used to go to church but someone in the building offended them.
2. Most kids around here grow up in the church but life is a lot funner elsewhere
3. Some number of people believe any church is more or less a cult and they want nothing to do with that sort of thing.
Recent Southern Baptist statistics reveal that membership in a large majority of Southern Baptist churches is plateaued or declining. The majority of membership changes are reflective not of new believers but of believers transferring their memberships from other churches.
If this is true, why did they move?
Number 1 above reveals my opinion. People get offended easily. They treat the church like some sort of social club that is designed to make them happy. If they're not happy - they leave. This also plays into number 2 above - we church folk are pesky; always telling kids about how bad music, movies, boyfriends/girlfriends, habits, etc. are. No teenager wants to be told that God doesn't like all that fun stuff. So they say, "I'm outta here!"
So what should the church be?
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.[Acts 2:42]
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, [Acts 2:45-46]
There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. [Acts 4:34-35]
Does that sound like our churches today?
The church is not the building - it's the people. If the people in the churches would but realize that their purpose in being there is not to gain personal happiness, but instead to share the love of Christ with those in need...well, I think you get the picture.
So, yeah, church isn't all it's cracked up to be. But it's not God's fault - it's ours.
God gave us the model for church and as usual, we've taken that model and distorted it, trying to remake church into what we wanted it to be.
Is this church?
The Crystal Cathedral
According to the information available on the Internet, it cost roughly $17 million to build Southern California's Crystal Cathedral. Imagine how many needs could have been filled with that money.
Some would argue that we musts have buildings where the faithful can gather for worship and discipleship and where we can invite people to hear the Word of God. I agree - but $17 million?
Build a $4 million building and use the rest to house the homeless; feed the hungry, clothe the needy...
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? [Isaiah 58:7]
No wonder people think we're a bunch of greedy hypocrits.
Don't just go to church - be the church!
What do you think?