Before Easter our little “church for people who don’t like church” was mentioned in a newspaper article about why church attendance is down in America. Josiah blogged about it (here)
Ironically, American newspapers and churches are both in a state of decline. For newspapers, Sunday circulation is down. Add revenues are down. But perhaps more painful for newspapers is the lack of importance average people put on newspapers…for many of us they are no longer part of our “news gathering” experience. For over two hundred years “big newspaper” has “owned the news” in America. They have influenced values, and swayed political power. Their editorial opinions were the “accepted” opinion…but no more. .
In their arrogance, newspapers could not imagine a world where their “professionals” with journalism degrees would be replaced by amateurs on blogs and websites, where their “reporters” could be replaced by ordinary people with cell phone cameras and twitter feeds. The “News” is big business…big buildings…big payrolls…big expenses…and now that “business” is slipping away. Is news dying in America?
I think the church in America has experienced much of the same meteoric rise and current decline as newspapers. Sunday attendance is down…”influence” is down. Arrogance and fear are up. How can people not include church in their weekly activities? Don’t they know that they need “religious professionals” to “handle” the Gospel (good news) for them? Don’t they know that Churches are the ones who should set the values and influence the politicians in America? Who will pay for the big buildings and salaries if people give up on the Church? Isn’t the church the “Bride of Christ”? Is “she” dying? How can church be “dying” in America?
Here’s the “scoop”. News is not dying in America. News IS. It’s what happens everyday. Newspapers don’t “own” the news…they never did. News existed before newspapers… whenever two or three neighbors would gather to talk about the things happening in their world..news was there. News will also exist long after printed newspapers are gone. For all the pompous posturing by “newsmen”, an average guy with a cell phone “twittering” or blogging about the news of the day may be even closer to the original idea of “news” than a pile of greasy newsprint.
“Church” is not dying in America. It IS. Long before church buildings and paid church staff existed…when two or three neighbors gathered to talk about the good news of Jesus they were experiencing in their lives…Church was. The true Church is people…people who chose to follow Jesus Christ. People who are “all in” for God’s plan for their lives here on earth..and for all eternity. This true Church exists in other countries that have none of the “machinery” that we call church…just like “news” exists in societies without newspapers. Although I certainly don’t want to see this happen, if every church building and organization in America suddenly disappeared (that includes us, actionchurch) Jesus would still do just fine when it comes to gathering his church…his “bride”.
So what do we do? I say we must realize that “People who don’t like church” are not “anti-Jesus” any more than people who don’t read newspapers are “anti-news”. Stop “editorializing” and arrogantly demanding that people “buy our product”…stop defending our “business” and get down to business…stop “blaming the messengers” for pointing out that the we are in trouble. (Actually I think Jesus himself had some pretty harsh words for churches here)
Maybe instead we need to get back in the business of spreading the GOOD NEWS…not our editorial opinions…no BS…no ads for our “products”…Just the Good news of God’s merciful plan for us all from the scriptures. Serve people…live the gospel. People still need it, more than ever. All of us need to participate. We need to realize that the church is “US”, amateurs and “professionals” alike-no matter what our “religious affiliations”. We have to get back in the “Good News” business…back to where we started.
Come to think of it, that might even work for the newspapers.