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News for Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Column — Reflections
Attending Church Is About Him, Not Us
By Lonnie Wilkey
editor, Baptist and Reflector

The Barna Group released some interesting research last week about the church-going habits of Americans today.

More and more Americans apparently are attending church less than ever before.

According to Barna research, overall church attendance has dropped from 43 percent in 2004 to 36 percent a decade later.

What’s interesting is that the definition of “attending” church has changed over the past 10 years. According to the Barna Group, regular church attenders were defined as people who went to church three or more weekends a month or even several times a week. Now, a regular churchgoer identifies him or herself as one who attends church every four to six weeks.

Barna research also discovered that “the percentage of people who have not attended a church function at all in the past six months has surged in the last decade from one-third to nearly two-fifths of all Americans. That percentage jumps to nearly one-half of younger Americans born between 1965 and 2002.

And, we wonder why our churches are not reaching people for Christ.

For my generation (ages 50 and above), going to church was natural for Christians. Unless you were sick you went to church on Sunday.

Today, according to The Barna Group, only 49 percent of Americans say that attending church is “very” or “somewhat” important while 51 percent say going to church is “not too” or “not at all” important.

Apparently, today’s church has done a poor job of helping its members understand the importance of attending church.

I can’t help but wonder how many churches actually have in place procedures to “check on” members who are not attending. The Sunday School is a natural place, but again how many Sunday Schools actually contact the folks on their roles who do not attend regularly? My guess is not many.

It’s easy to “get lost” at church if you so desire and the bigger the church, the easier it is.

In its recent research project, Barna asked those who attend, why they did so. The responses included “I want to be closer to God,” “I need to learn more about God,” “The Bible says to be with other believers,” and “I’ve always attended church.”

The two primary answers of those who don’t attend church were “I find God elsewhere” and “The church is not relevant to me personally.” The relevance question pretty much sums up why people don’t attend church. If the church doesn’t meet their needs/wants, then they will not go. It doesn’t matter that church is not supposed to be “about me.” Too many people are looking for what the church can do for them instead of going to church to worship the Creator of the universe.

Going to church has to be centered around a mindset of “It’s all about God, not me.”

These trends will continue to spiral downward unless church ministers and lay leaders mount an all out effort to reverse these trends.

We need to show today’s world that going to church is relevant because we are praising and worshiping our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It has to be about Him, not us.

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