I have written about how I believe that many Western Christians are functioning at some level of syncretism. Instead of understanding the Gospel and critiquing culture from this understanding we have left our culture unexamined (even the places where it is incompatible with the Gospel) and try to hold both in hand, at times assuming the whole mess is actually the Gospel. To illustrate this point futher I want to take a deeper look at how many approach Church attendance.
Many Western Christians have uncritcially adopted Western values, even mistaking them for biblical ones, and our attitudes towards the local Church attendance reflect this. Deeply marked by the individualism and consumerism in our culture we often go where we “get fed.” We do not gravitate towards where we are called or where we might be of service, but where we get ours. I am not saying people should go to a church where they have no connection or are totally uncomfortable or disagree with the theology but when people switch congregations like they do outfits, something is wrong. We treat the Body of Christ as something that should service our needs, not something to be a part of and in relationship to that will equip us for the work of services. (Eph 4:11)
This perpetual search for the newest and best Christian products from a Sunday service and local congregation, which is especially clear when people are looking for a new church, often leads to transient church membership. People leave to another Church at the first experiences of discomfort, displeasure or discipline. This in turn leads to abysmally low levels of discipleship. We are in relationship to no one, submit to no authority and can quit easily if and when we are made in the slightest bit comfortable, say by church discipline. This is probably why the iChurch is filled with people like me. We self-report as Christians on questionairres and live ridiculously non-Christian and hypocritical lives – and no one from the Church stops us.
Speakfaitfhully Public Service Announcement: Let me spell out very explicitly what this looks like in real congregations to put some teeth to my point.
Big Valley Grace Church – http://www.bigvalleygrace.org
Shelter Cove – www.cometosheltercove.com
Redeemer – www.theredeemerchurch.com
Calvary Chapel – http://www.ccmodesto.com
Calvary Temple – http://www.ctwc.com
First Baptist – http://www.fbcmodesto.com
As someone who is a young adult who grew up in the church culture in Modesto, CA, and has worked extensively with young adults and in and for churches and ministries in Modesto I feel I should make you all aware of something…
You are totally and completely interchangeable with one another to the young adults in Modesto.
Our attendance at your church, which probably started by a segments of a clique from a high school youth group checking out your “new thing”, is now totally dependent on your ability to continually entertain us. Our continued attendance is performance based and superficial. If you currently have a high attendance of young adults, you better keep it up and never drop the ball. Also be aware that we are probably involved in, serving at, or considering one or more of the other major churches in the area. Instead of investing in our local congregation, we take the best of what’s avaialbe…a little worship at this church, a little teaching at this church, and a little community at another church. If you are experiencing or have experienced an exodus from your young adult ministries, you most likely made some change that somehow did not sit with our preferences or the preferences of one of our friends. But do not worry. Give it about 3-5 years and we will be on to the next congregation(s) and/or young adult ministry, the next fad place to attend, where the preaching is relevant, you have paid enough attention to Christian cultural trends, the girls dress nice, and the guys are hot, which could very well be your congregation once again.
With that last statement I will no doubt offend many in Modesto, both young adults and pastors who are denial about their assumptions regarding church, or see the issues as far more complicated than that. While I know not every decision to switch churches is selfish and this is a simplification of very serious issues that have arisen within the churches in Modesto, I will stand by my belief that the transient young adult church attendance is driven more by consumerism and individualism, values inherent to Western culture, than they are by any other factor.