Jesus We Like, But Church, Not So Much...
So, the word on the street is this:
In 1995, 6% of the country indicated by survey that their church affiliation is "NONE".
In 2006, that number increased to 15%.
In 2015, just nine years later, that number has increased to 23%.
So, if that is a trend and trends like this tend to be starker in the northeast, it is likely that over 1/4 people do not associate themselves with any church at all.
Here is the good news: Surveys indicate that interest in spirituality has not dipped. From a Biblical perspective, we know that everyone is made with eternity in their hearts, or as CS Lewis says it, with a "God-shaped void." Augustine phrased it that "our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you."
Can I use a fourth quote that might capture the spirit of our friends who are far from God? This one is from Bono, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for..." The church has been sent to embody and demonstrate the love and compassion of God, and for many people, and even though that is what everyone is looking for, the last place they are thinking to look is at a church. Yes, there are exceptions to this and many of us met God ourselves in those places. However, it turns out that there just are not enough places to do this for everyone. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few."
So what does this mean for us?
Our lives and our love for another is the ultimate apologetic, the ultimate source of evidence that there is a God in this world. Jesus himself said that the world will know that He is real by the way we love one another. So, our Launch Team is going to have a lot of opportunity to be together starting this summer.
We need to communicate that we as a church are different from the church they experienced. I am not saying we need to differentiate from the churches that we love like Willowdale. But most people have not experienced what we have and therefore they have no memory of any kind of church of which they would ever want to be a part. Most people don't like church because they have had bad church experiences. That is probably part of why 80% of churches in the US are in plateau or decline.
We need to bring the message to them this summer and fall that our church is different than the lousy church they got dragged to as a kid. That will mean that we will be buying a food truck, maybe launching a Corn Hole Tournament and Festival. We have to let people know that church is awesome.
The reason church is awesome is because Jesus is awesome. The only people who didn't like him are the people who wanted to hold onto their religious rules and junk. As we go forward, we will get ourselves a fresh picture of who Jesus is that we may show it to the world around us.