Everyone has something to say about the Decline, if not Death of the Church: the church is user-unfriendly; attempts to make it user friendly have just dumbed it down; the church is not meeting people’s needs; the church is pandering to unchurched people by becoming a spiritual Disneyworld; the church is too hung up on details; the church is forgetting that details help us get the greater meaning.In fairness, a lot of the articles do offer some suggestions. The one that turns up most often seems to be that we must tell our stories. And I agree. This is what people want to hear and what will bring Jesus to them. Who doesn’t like a good story?
But this is hard. We are conditioned to “not intrude on another person’s space,” or more bluntly, “Stay out of other people’s business.” We are cautious about revealing our own feelings. (And unfortunately, in some circles that kind of sharing is an easy target for satire.) And don’t even think about talking about religion. It’s even ruder than talking about politics.But we have to try. We have to pray for the courage to do it.
I suggest that every time someone writes something about the decline of the church and the need to tell our stories, he or she add an extra paragraph, or maybe even just a sentence about his or her own story. Perhaps even put it in bold type or a different font. Or when you’re having a Discussion or bull session about the church or God, tell your story. I was going to say “church or God or whatever”, but bringing it up in talks about “whatever” can make you an Annoying Believer. (You can read more about that in “You just might be turning into an Annoying Believer”, posted on July 22.)So: I’d been going to church all my life, switching denominations and was even a fairly agnostic Unitarian. Around 1998, I went back to the Episcopal Church, mostly because a church was just a block from my house and the Unitarian church was an hour away on public transportation. I was saved this past June (yes, fifteen years later), when I realized during an internet argument with a bunch of atheists that I truly believed what I was saying. I have been greatly helped by wonderful pastors, teachers, people in the small groups I belong to, and friends. I’m a lot happier since this happened. This blog tells more about my spiritual journey
As one of my therapists used to say, I invite you to take the risk. (Yes, I realize that this sentence is an easy target for satire, but it needed to be said. Feel free to get snarky if you want to.) For the church and for yourself.