Based on all our research and surveys, it's evident that church attendance has declined significantly. Some denominations are down more than others. The fact is that every denomination is losing members.
Experts have put forth several explanations for this decline. The pandemic wreaked havoc within families and communities, leading people to become accustomed to staying home on Sunday mornings and forming new routines. Returning to old habits, let alone embracing new ones, has proven to be a challenging endeavor (just ask anyone who made a New Year resolution back in January).
Additionally, the rise of the "nones" and those with varying degrees of religious skepticism has been cited as another contributing factor to the decline in church attendance. Some surveys indicate that in any given community, less than half of the population actively participates in a local church. When you delve deeper into the statistics, it becomes apparent that only around twenty percent of residents in a neighborhood can be considered as actively engaged in their local church.
Here’s why I think attendance is down: People have stopped coming.
I taught confirmation class this past Wednesday. We talked about what makes a church a church. We concluded that the church isn’t a building. Without people, the church doesn’t exist. We can be the church without a building, but we cannot be the church without people.
We go to church because we are needed. Within the pews of every church, there’s a multitude of heartaches. If you knew these stories, they would undoubtedly break your heart.
In any given worship service, there are those who cannot sing and pray because the grief and pain are just too fresh and raw. In those moments, the voice of the congregation becomes their song when they cannot sing. In those moments, the voice of the congregation becomes their prayer when they cannot pray.
In life, everybody gets a turn. Right now, it’s their turn.
We show up because our turn is coming. The American dream of a solo hero taking on the world is a twisted nightmare. No one makes it alone. Life is just too hard. We go because we know one day the phone will ring for us and in a matter of seconds, our world will fall apart. We go to church to find those people who will walk with us when life collapses.
We need Jesus. We need each other. And yes, we need the church.
Is the church filled with hypocrites and self-righteous pretenders? Absolutely! This tends to happen when the doors are flung wide open and there is no cover charge. The church isn’t perfect, but then again, a perfect church wouldn’t let us in.
Maybe this Sunday the gospel message that has rung true for 2000 years might ring true for you.
Pastor for Care and Community