This past Sunday after church (we were visiting), we had lunch with a group of church leaders. Next Sunday will be the final one for the current pastor who is a dear friend of mine. Since I won’t be in town for the next few Sundays I was invited this past Sunday. He suffered a severe heart attack a few months ago and is retiring and moving home to Western Oklahoma where most of his family live.
As I looked out on this congregation I saw a mainly older congregation. They are wonderful people, many that we know well, but there were very few younger people. I have been reading lately a lot of statistics of the lack of church attendance in our young people. I read only last week that between the ages of 18-30 only about 20% of them attend church. The question is why? I’m not here to tell you I know all of the answers, but I have given much thought to it.
I want to share something with you that I experienced in Mexico City in the early 1980s. I took over a fledgling group of people that were assembling from another missionary who was heading back to the States. It was a great group of people who had been meeting for a couple of years but it was hard to get many of them to congregate on Sunday mornings. As I observed the way people lived in that culture I noticed that the parks were full on Sunday mornings. Families were walking the parks, soccer balls were being kicked from fathers to sons, and picnics were enjoyed. They had worked hard all week and Sunday was their family time.
As I thought about it, we were trying to get people to change their culture to become what we would call “good Christians” who regularly attended church. I have observed in every country that I have traveled that the missionaries established the same protocol for church that is observed in the U.S.A.; Sunday school at 9:00-9:30am and worship service around 10:30am.
Being the independent thinker that I am, I changed completely the time of our services. I completely eliminated the Sunday morning service. We had our Sunday school at 5:00pm and worship at 6:00pm. What happened because of the simple time change? Our attendance exploded and never stopped. It became a vibrant body that completely sustained itself with it’s own national pastor within only a few months.
By making the above changes I was ridiculed, and even called a heretic, because this is just not the way it was “supposed” to be. I actually took this as a complement. I don’t like to do anything only because that’s the way everybody else does it. It worked in a great way. There is nothing in Scripture that says we must worship at a particular time on the Lord’s day.
As I think about our young people, I think a similar thing is occurring in regards to our culture. Today, almost all women work outside the home, besides all of the regular work that is done at home. Almost all weekend is catch up to prepare for a new week ahead. There is no time allowed for a down time of only a few hours. Come Sunday morning they are completely exhausted and they need some extra rest. The regular times of our church services are like preparing to go to another job instead of to worship the living God.
My kids fit into this same category and have the same struggles. It’s not that they don’t want to worship God and be involved in church, but it is a real struggle; especially when you have 2-3 children. By not being plugged in faithfully every Sunday morning they are then looked upon as 2nd class, or not very spiritual people.
These are my thoughts for today and I shared some of these thoughts with the pastor search committee. This is not the only reason young people don’t regularly attend church today, but I do think it is one of the problems. Things aren’t as they were 30-50 years ago. Our message has never changed. and never should. The way of how and when we proclaim it can, and I think needs to be changed. I could add much to this but I don’t like to have too long of post. Hopefully, this will give you something to think about today..
What are your thoughts? Am I a heretic and gone mad?
Until tomorrow, Lord willing,