Monday, August 29, 2011
Empty Churches, Empty Lives
In a study recently released by the Barna Group, church attendance among adults has declined by 9 percent, dropping from 49 to 40 percent. This drop includes an 11 percent decrease in attendance among women, and lower attendance numbers for both working class White Americans and among Hispanics. This decline supports the growing idea that the church is becoming less and less relevant in our society and shows that the majority of people are relying on their own merit and power to make it through their lives. The percentage of unchurched individuals rose from just 24 percent in the last poll to 37 percent in the most recently released data. That is an increase of over 50 percent. Furthermore, only 40 percent of Americans are reading their bibles on a weekly basis. The inspired Word of God given to us for our benefit, for support and growth, the best selling book in the world (of all time) is not being read. The functions of the church have also dropped as only 15 percent of adults attend Sunday School on any given Sunday (ebbed 8 percent), and volunteerism dropped to 19 percent over the past two decades.
While we have not covered much ground in the books yet, I can still see a direct relation between these statistics and Jay Adam's book How to Help People Change. The premise of Jay Adams book is that true change can only occur after there is inner change, or life change. The individual can change everything about his life and this will only lead to a temporary solution for his problems. His issue will resurface, change shape, or intensify if God is not part of his life. This requires that the individual seek to build his relationship with the One True God by seeking out ways to know Him more. This includes going to church, reading His Word, communing with Him in prayer, and discussing Him in small groups. This cannot happen if we are not in church! This will not happen if our nation's people cease to seek His face. Jay Adams states that the Bible is enough, but less and less people believe this. Scripture is crucial in leading the individual to true, heart-felt conviction. This conviction draws them toward God and away from sin. The statistics show that there is less and less conviction and less and less belief in the inerrancy of scripture! Not only are people unashamed of their God-separated lives, but they don't believe in the scripture that can bring them back to conviction! Jay Adams entire approach is based on people attending church. Adams says that without God change is not permanent and therefore our society has become a self-help driven cycle of issues that will reoccur until we fix our eyes upon the Cross.
This article and blog post has shown me the need for true fellowship in the church. It has also shown me that it is more important than ever to share the gospel with those around me. In my opinion, the reason that church attendance is melting like a popsicle on a hot day is a misappropriation of the role of the church. It has become a place where strangers gather on Sunday to sing meaningless songs and listen to some guy talk about an "outdated" book and how we can improve our lives. The early church was a body of believers who gathered together to fellowship, break bread together, pray, learn, support one another, and worship the God who died for their sins. We believe these days that everything is about us; the Bible, church, this Christian faith. The truth is, none of it is about us. The Bible is about Jesus and His love and glory. Not about the glory of you or I, but the glory of our God on High. This world is obviously showing signs of the decline of Jesus' work in our lives and there is no way for us to permanently repair it without faith in His sovereignty and His promise that He will bring about good works in our lives. You and I must go forth and bring the Word to the nations, to those around us, to our families, to our friends, and to ourselves. It is absolutely essential that we are seeking to grow with Christ if we plan to help others overcome their problems. We can't help people change if we are not changed. We cannot help people change if they are not changed.