The trend is practically universal: fewer people are attending church every year. You might have even asked the question yourself. Why bother?
By Carey Nieuwhof
There are many reasons why that’s happening, but I think it’s increasingly evident that it no longer makes sense to attend church. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of the church. But I get why more and more people have simply stopped attending.
Let me explain.
In the fall of 2015, I transitioned out of the lead pastor role at our church and into a Founding and Teaching Pastor role. I still carry about 30 Sundays a year of teaching and work on some senior level projects, but that leaves me much freer than I’ve ever been on a Sunday morning.
Sure, sometimes I host the service or have other roles, but more often than I’ve ever experienced before, I’m free on a Sunday. Which means I’m often an attender. So I feel what the culture is feeling more than ever before.
And on those Sundays when I have no official role, I’m plagued with the question “Why go to church?”
After all, our church streams our services live online. I could literally watch live on any device I own anywhere. Plus we share the services on demand, so I could watch or listen any time during the week via our website or catch the message for free via podcast.
If your church doesn’t have an online experience, no worries, about a million others do. You can access almost any church you want, anywhere, anytime. Free.
Which brings us back to the question: Why attend church?
Increasingly, I’m convinced there’s no point to merely attending. You drive all the way in to connect with three or four songs, hear the message and then head home. All of that you could almost do by yourself in a much more convenient way. Slip on Spotify and grab the message via podcast or on demand and boom, you’re covered.
I wonder if in large measure that’s why the era of attending church is dying. Think about it.
Generations ago, the church was a social and cultural hub as well as a missional hub. In addition to faith reasons, people loved going to church because it was one of a handful of options available in a community as well as the main way (other than personal devotions) you connect with God.
We now live in a culture that’s drowning in options and has 24/7 access to anything Christian.
In fact, I can think of only two compelling reasons to go to church anymore.
The main reason I gather with the church is because I am the church.
You don’t attend church. You are the church.
Merely attending church doesn’t make you much of a church because sitting in a back row consuming church doesn’t make you very good at being the church.
I think being the church has something to do with living your life for Christ, demonstrating God’s love by serving others and sharing your faith with people. That’s very different than consuming church in a back row, which you can just as easily do on your back deck.
The reason you would go to church today is that you’ve moved from being a consumer to being a contributor. You don’t just go to be served, you go to serve. There’s something deeply scriptural about that.
And before you think that you can do whatever you need to do as a Christian in the world without other Christians or without the church, here are couple of reasons I would disagree.
First, gathering together was Jesus’ idea, not ours. I outline that (and much more) here.
Second, listen to what this young mom had to say about her experience when she started skipping church because of the demands of parenting. Fascinating.
You are the church. Remember that. And the church is at it’s best when we engage in the mission God has given us.
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