Church attendance has been on the decline for decades. Every pastor knows that and those of us who have adult children or have Christian friends with adult children knows that to be a sad reality. But why?
In fact, movement away from the church is so strong its being called "Dechurching". Jim Davis, an evangelical pastor has written a book, The Great Dechurching. In his book he identifies not only the problem but some possible solutions. But first let's examine a few contributing factors.
Covid. When churches shut down for Covid many people simply got out of the habit of attending church. They could watch online in their pajamas, save a trip in the car, turn the TV on and off and turn it off when announcements were made, so we lost touch. We could get the teaching without the hassle of getting ready for and driving to church and meeting people we'd rather not.
Politics. Many of the younger Christians I meet with are fed up with older evangelicals behaving un-christlike. They heard what of their parent taught them in Sunday school to love even your enemies. But they see just the opposite in real life. Many Christians they know "hate democrats, LGBTQ+ people, and appear to have very little compassion for immigrants and the poor". "Why bother attending church if it doesn't produce better people than that?
Podcasts. I listen to a half-dozen great podcasts from wonderful pastors and teachers every week. And many of the younger Christians I know are doing the same. So they're getting good Bible instruction. Why bother with church?
The #1 Problem
Jim Davis makes this important observation. "Contemporary American culture simply isn't set up to promote mutuality and caring for one another, the essence of what Christians ought to be doing. Rather it's designed to maximize individual achievements as defined by professional, financial and social media success. This leave precious little time or interest in caring for others, sacrificially."
Why bother with church?
Because a loving, caring community is the antidote for what Davis describes. Without the Church is no other community to cheer us, or encourage us to care about kindness, generosity and loving others more than ourselves. Maybe our families can do that but as we grow up and move away, then what? On Pentecost the new Christians began gathering together, not just to hear good teaching but here's what actually happened.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
All that is missing when you or I are not committed to a local body of believers. I once made this observation to some good Christian friends who have stopped going to church. "Why don't you just watch your favorite sports team play on TV? Why spend two hours driving to a large city, pay $100 for a ticket, and fight the crowds to watch an event you can get fro free?" Their answer, "Because when you're a fan, you want to be there with all the other fans." Exactly!
But before you consider sending this blog to an adult child, do something first. Pray for wisdom, then meet with your adult child and ask them why they stopped going to church. Don't argue or shame them. Hear their story, reflect on it for a few days then maybe continue the conversation. The ultimate goal should not be just "going to church". It's becoming more like Jesus, along with others that want to be more like Jesus. If you see that happening in their life, you may just want to back off for a while. On the other hand if you sense in their answer they are not excited about living for Jesus then maybe your adult children have a way bigger problem than whether or not they go to church.