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America's churches are dying

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Bob Cook, Sep 21, 2011.

  1. crimsonace

    crimsonace Well-Known Member

    Not to turn this into a political thread, but one possible reason that's happened is because the government has largely taken over the role of providing welfare to the poor in the Western world. The welfare state has taken over a role that had primarily been performed by the church. To finance it, taxes have risen to the point where congregants can't afford to tithe *and* pay taxes *and* keep food on the table.

    Without being able to fulfill its mission to serve the local community -- and with the fact that the poor now turn to the government instead of the faith community for help -- that reaches in fewer contacts with the faith community and less of a need for religion.
  2. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    I loathe rock-n-roll church services. And I think they cause older members to leave the church as much as it attracts younger ones.

    My wife and I had a rough time finding a church home because of it. Most of the local Methodist churches have shunted traditional services to 8:45 or 9 and put rock-n-roll services at 10:45. When it was just the two of us, we could get around to early church to hear the hymns we grew up on. But once we had a kid, that because impossible. She wakes up at 8 and there's no way to get all three of us fed, dressed and in the car in time for early services.
  3. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    I don't know what hymns you guys had in your church, but most of them in my hymnals growing up were just crappy pop songs from the 1880s. A few timeless ones, but not many.

    The main problem I have with contemporary church music is how tone-deaf it can me (and I don't mean musically). I swear to you, these are the lyrics of a favorite in our church right now. Half the people are looking around thinking "this is a prank, right?"

    "When heaven meets earth like a passionate kiss, and my heart beats violently inside of my chest, I don't have time to maintain these regrets, when I think about the way You love me."

    Tone deaf.
  4. crimsonace

    crimsonace Well-Known Member

    I might replace "many" with "some." Unfortunately, there are some of those megachurches. But I would argue that the vast majority do a *lot* of mission work and ministry in their own communities. I've found that the typical stereotype of a megachurch is that it's a plastic, vanilla, consumer culture with Joel Osteen telling everyone how great they are, a few really happy songs and go home and feel good about yourself. But most of the megachurches I'm in contact with have a tremendous amount of depth -- and the preaching has very little in common with Joel Osteen. The packaging is a bit more welcoming to someone who might not be comfortable going to a traditional church (and still a bit difficult for an old-school churchgoer like me -- I just can't wear jeans to Sunday services), but the message is still the same, and they often have greater resources to do good in their own communities and abroad. My church of 1,400 -- which pretty much has copied all of what it does from Bill Hybels' Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago -- has missions in Haiti, Brazil and Mexico (and other far-flung places), a homeless ministry, a benevolence ministry, a food pantry, and a congregation that is very generous to support all of them. It was a church of 400 13 years ago when we began going. Members are expected to be involved in ministry, whether teaching a class, leading a Bible study, running the A/V equipment, prayer, feeding the homeless, providing car maintenance for the single women's group, etc. We had a day a year ago where the entire church contacted local senior citizens' organizations and did odd jobs around their yards/homes. There's real depth -- not just for members to sit in the congregation and consume, but to serve and *be* the church.

    Where megachurches tend to get negatively painted as "consumer churches" is that they tend to serve transient suburban populations and therefore have a more fluid membership. Most of the members of my church (which is 20 years old) grew up elsewhere and recently moved to the community -- very few have transferred from other churches in town. A decent number of the folks who attended a decade ago are gone, many of whom because they moved to other towns or they felt called to start up a similar church in a neighboring community. Very few left the church entirely or went to another congregation in the community.

    Absolutely, and it's wrong. It's the reality of what happens when you have imperfect humans trying to operate God's church on earth. I've witnessed churches splitting because one faction didn't like modern music and the other faction did. There are people who get jealous of other churches' successes and yet refuse to do what got them there. I've sat and listened to my octogenarian aunt (and her co-church members) lament how "these kids all read Shakespeare but they have to have modern translations of the Bible instead of the real thing (e.g., the King James Version)," and kept thinking "you're focusing on the wrong thing. Those modern translations make Christianity accessible to people, and not seem like a Middle English antiquity."

    It's a big reason why many newer suburban churches are eschewing denominational labels (even though they're primarily built on a Baptist/Christian Church setup). They don't want to get caught up in old controversies, they just want to worship Jesus.

    The big question has been, how to prevent the church's slide -- because the American church doesn't want to become the European church, which has become practically irrelevant in Europe. In Protestantism, doctrinal conservatives -- primarily evangelicals, Baptists, Christian Church -- tend to think that the church must stay true to its Biblical roots and hold firm on those issues, but on non-Biblical issues (such as music style or how a sanctuary is designed), they open it up to make things more accessible so people will come in, become "saved" and carry out ministry.

    At least in my experience, doctrinal progressives/liberals tend to hold more fast to the packaging -- keeping the "traditions" of the hymnal, robed choir, et al -- but want to remain relevant by adapting the church to modern culture, and therefore are more willing to accept positions on social issues that others claim might run counter to Scripture, but are still losing members (I attended a mainline church for a while in college, and the one thing I kept asking myself was "the music is great here, but what exactly do they believe?" When we posed the question to one of the pastors and she couldn't answer it, I realized this wasn't a good place for me to be).

    What I see on the conservative end is that some more fundamental congregations refuse to move on the way it is presented (whether it be "KJV only" or "Jesus will come back before we ever allow a guitar in this place," because that's the way it was done in the 1950s) because they fear sliding into doctrinal liberalism, but that other congregations that have modernized the presentation of Christianity but have held firm on doctrinal issues have seen tremendous growth. On the liberal end, if there are other churches like the one I attended that have become so worried about adapting to culture that they leave their basic message behind, then it will be hard to retain members.
  5. crimsonace

    crimsonace Well-Known Member

    True. A lot of evangelical churches grew (and grew up) during the 1950s revival of Christianity, and they hold fast to the type of service that was popular in the 1950s -- with those 1880s pop songs (from a previous revival), a piano, an organ, a robed choir and an unchanging format. But the problem was that it almost got raised to a doctrinal level in some areas, which led to them looking down on the "Jesus movement" in the 1970s which begat some of the "rock-n-roll" churches of today, and is unfortunately leading to church splits.

    In most cases, the church has always adapted to modern times -- whether it be rewriting 1880s drinking songs, coming up with new worship songs in the 2000s (many of which are awfully repetitive -- I told myself once that I'd turn the local CCM station off when I heard the words "You are," and had to change the station about 10 seconds in virtually every time) or singing all 57 verses of "Just As I Am" during Billy Graham's early heyday ... or embracing female pastors or homosexuals in some mainline churches. It's just a matter of *how* one adapts.

    Even the Catholic Mass has changed and been updated -- although my friend who works for the archdiocese still rolls his eyes and buries his head when he sees a guitar in Mass or looks down and doesn't see a kneeler.

    For a lot of us, the "language of God" is the language we heard in church when we grew up. For young Baptists, it's 1600s English and 1800s drinking songs set to organ music. For Catholics, it's Latin and a pipe organ. For Methodists, it's the music of the great composers. Any movement by the church away from those things is going to be seen as "they're bringing us down a bad path," but in reality, it's just the evolution of the church to continue to make Christianity accessible to modern society.
  6. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    Crimsonace: The government takeover of welfare came in large part because churches and private charities couldn't handle the load. For example, churches couldn't make seniors go from the poorest to least poor -- but government could.

    The fall in church attendance has been going on for the last 40-50 years. It's accelerated in large put simply because so many of the oldsters are dying off. That's certainly the case in my church, though for the first time in ages it's adding new members (including my family two years ago).
  7. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    It's interesting, there is a church near where I live that would always have one of those boards with a catchy phrase like "Forgiveness is the gift that you give to yourself" - a week ago, noticed the sign is gone and workers are removing everything from inside.
    How long before churches start blaming the Internet?
    You do wonder though if the fracturing of our society into smaller parts, where people have grown accustomed to "have it their way" has made forming and maintaining a congregation of a rapidly diversified population that much more difficult.
    It might also be an explanation for the popularity of some mega churches that have been accused of "watering down" the Gospel to appeal to more people.
  8. murphyc

    murphyc Well-Known Member

    To me, a big thing about churches is reaching out to visitors or newcomers. There have been times we've been frustrated with aspects of our current church, but one thing has always stood out. When we moved here nearly three years ago, we moved into town on a Saturday. The only thing we got out of the moving truck that night was our mattress. My wife had a list of churches to try, so we went to the first one on the list. People were very warm towards us and I mentioned to a couple of people we hadn't unloaded the truck. About an hour after we got back home, a group of 10 guys from church was at the door to help unload the truck. That spoke volumes about helping out others in the community.
    In the town we moved here from, we had a real hard time finding a church. At one church people avoided us like the plague. At another we were by far the youngest (in our early 30s). Even at the church we settled on, by and large it was a cold feeling. Five minutes after church was over, the doors were locked and everyone was back home with family.
    At the church we used to go to in Washington, I had been a member for about six years when I moved out of state. Three years later while back in town, my wife and I went to a church picnic. There were a lot of new faces and not one of them made any attempt to greet us. If we moved back to that town, I would be trying new churches, even though my old church was a great one.
    I'm not saying being friendly will by itself make or break a church, but to me it's certainly a factor in where I choose to worship.
  9. Big Circus

    Big Circus Well-Known Member

    Seconded. Damn good post, print.
  10. Bubbler

    Bubbler Well-Known Member

    Do you go to the Church of Celine Dion?
  11. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    I heard one song at a RNR service that sounded like the singer was trying to bed a girl. Never mentioned Jesus or God. Lots of references to walking in gardens and becoming one together.
  12. hondo

    hondo Well-Known Member

    One other thing about modern Christian music that drives me crazy: the need for some of the performers and some in the congregation to "act out" the lyrics. They wind up gyrating like a sign language interpreter for the deaf on 3 gallons of Red Bull.

    Also, God still knows you're in church if you don't close your eyes, raise one arm and sway. In the meantime, you've knocked my glasses off when you're standing next to me.

    If I want performance art, I won't go to church.
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