March 04, 2009

Finding Jesus

The National Council of Churches issued this disturbing report recently:

The 77th annual edition of the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, long a highly regarded chronicler of growth and financial trends of religious institutions, records a slight but startling decline in membership of the nation's largest Christian communions.

Membership in the Roman Catholic Church declined 0.59 percent and the Southern Baptist Convention declined 0.24 percent, according to the 2009 edition of the Yearbook, edited by the National Council of Churches and published by Abingdon.

This year's reported decline raises eyebrows because Catholic and Southern Baptist membership has grown dependably over the years. Now they join virtually every mainline church in reporting a membership decline.

Click here to read the entire report

This report comes out at an interesting time in our ministry, since Brenda and I recently
left our church and are currently unaffiliated.

I have been a member of four churches in my life; two Southern Baptist congregations, one Roman Catholic, and recently an independent Charismatic fellowship. I left the first one when I was ostracized following a divorce, the second when I was fired from employment there, the third out of disinterest, and most recently Brenda and I left BCF due to a difference in the direction of our ministry compared to that of the church leadership.

I offer that information as my credentials to talk about why people leave churches.

People who switch congregations are not the issue, in my opinion, because they are still seeking connection, still seeking a place to worship, still seeking a place to be spiritually fed.

The much bigger problem is the people who leave the church experience completely.

Here's some insight, a quote from the book "Jesus Wants to Save Christians," by Rob Bell and Don Golden:

"A church's authority.....comes from how we've been broken open and poured out, not from how well we've pursued power and lobbied and organized ourselves to triumph. This is why when Christians organize politically and start flexing that muscle, making threats about how they are going to impose their way on others, so many people turn away from Jesus.

Jesus' followers at that point are claiming to be the voice of God, but they are speaking the language of Caesar and using the methods of (the Roman Empire)."

Jesus came to aid the weak and disenfranchised, yet many churches are led by those who seek strength by accumulating power and wealth.

Jesus came to earth as a living sacrifice to die for us, yet many churches ask their members to sacrifice to sustain the church.

Jesus didn't brag about how many people came to hear Him speak, yet many churches measure their success by counting heads in the congregation and/or baptisms they perform.

Jesus never had a home base, never built a facility, yet many churches focus much of their members' energy in obtaining, growing, furnishing, and maintaining buildings.

Jesus reached out to people at the lowest rung of society, yet many churches reject people who aren't dressed "properly", aren't the right color, or who love someone of the same gender.

Jesus kept the focus of His short time on earth toward ministering to those who needed Him and training those who would follow in leadership, yet many churches have most of their focus on sustaining itself and meeting the needs of people already in their congregations at the expense of those outside the walls who truly need love and sustenance.

You can find many churches without any trace of the real Jesus.

You can connect with the real Jesus without stepping foot in a church.

You can find Him in your living room.

You can find Him at a park bench.

You can find Him while breaking bread with other seekers in a restaurant.

Sometimes, you have a better chance of connecting with Jesus beyond the walls of the church.

That's where most of the people He originally came to save can be found.

That's beyond the politics, power struggles, financial concerns, committees, and drama that often take the place of ministry and worship in what should be the Lord's House.

The church is growing in China through a network primarily focused on house churches, small groups meeting in someone's home.

The house church movement is starting to grow in the United States. Groups like DOVE Christian Fellowship International are facilitating that growth.

People are still seeking Jesus.

More people are looking outside the box, namely the walls of the church, to find Him.

Sometimes that can be the purest form of worship, just praising Him without a band, stereo system, and video display.

Simply a small group making a joyful noise because they love the Lord.

Just like they did in the early Church as recorded in the Book of Acts.

Perhaps we should get back to the basics.

If you've been rejected by the church, there are alternatives.

Sometimes something can be so simple, so pure, we completely miss it.

Just because the door of the church has been slammed shut in your face, don't close the door on Jesus.

He's still ready to welcome you with open arms and love you.

Just as you are, right where you are.


  1. *smiles*
    I've missed reading this site.
    Love to ya.

  2. The book "Quitting Church" by Julia Duin is an interesting read on this topic. It's a good companion to last year's book "UnChristian" by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.


  3. Great thoughts!
    I think many churches need to start getting back to these basics but that means changing the way we think and imagine. We have settled for the "language of Caesar" and "the methods of empire" so much that we can't even imagine what it would look like to do things as you suggest. we feel we need to maintain the church buildings and such. We're trapped in the walls of our buildings.