People are leaving the church — for the church

The author is a pastor of the Globe Presbyterian Church in Charlotte.

Earlier this week Gallup releases polling data It shows that less than 50% of Americans report belonging to the religious community. In 1970, when Gallup first began tracking this data, more than 70% of Americans belonged to the religious community. As a pastor, when I heard this news, I thought of the lesser-known part of Chapter 10 of the Book of Ezekiel, where the Prophet watched with fear as God’s glory left the temple.

This is not the standard response to such news. Parties blame “this generation” for being dishonest, “media” hurt, and “government” removing prayer from school. Once we’ve blamed the people outside the community, we look at the people inside and pressure to give more, do more work, and make more sacrifices to reverse the trend. I will put it on. But I don’t think it’s a faithful response.

Because while the number of members of the church is declining, people are still hungry for God’s things. People still seek justice, forgiveness, hope, love, and attribution. People are still hungry for mercy, meaning, and a second chance. People are still looking for holy things, and holy ones are still looking for people. So the problem is not with the people outside the church, but certainly with God. The problem — and that’s the problem — is with us. The problem is that most American churches are more like America than the body of Christ.

The church makes news for all the wrong reasons — Seminary leader who enthusiastically criticizes critical race theory However, they are silent about the white supremacy that forms their curriculum and institutions. A pastor who values ​​not being called a racist rather than learning how to participate meaningfully in racial reconciliation. Christians who are more interested in defending their right to buy weapons than insisting on ending police atrocities.

Jesus, whose parents had to flee abroad to save their lives, has believers who advocate closing the border for desperate refugees.Christians should not be indignant So-called “Satan shoes” 666 pairs However, he completely resigned from the disfranchisement of voters, the school-to-prison pipeline, the re-separation of public schools, the opioid crisis, or the mass shooting epidemic.And speaking of Little Naz X, believers should The horrifying video of his “Call Me by Your Name”-not because of the filthy images, but because he convinced the boy that he was more likely to find love in hell than in Christ’s body. ..

I love church. But I love Jesus more and the church did the terrible job of staying true to Jesus’ way. When we, who love the church, see these numbers, we should not make fun of ourselves. People are not rejecting Jesus — they are looking away from the church that represents him badly. A church full of programs, full of doctrine, but not full of mercy, not prayer. Staying away from the lying church is the first step towards the truth.

It brings me back to the prophet Ezekiel — he has called prophetic judgment by God not against outsiders, but against the terrible dishonesty of his fellow believers. In Ezekiel’s day, people loved worship rituals more than the gods they worshiped, and people loved their religious identity more than God’s Shalom. So, in distress, God leaves their sacred building behind. But God never abandoned people.

On the cross, Jesus shouted, “It’s over.” Injustice is over, greed and poverty are over, hatred is over, violence, hostility and alienation are over. All of those old forces are blamed and crucified. On the cross, the righteousness of God’s self-giving love was unleashed, and all the earth was sacredly infected. The life of resurrection has come. And the church, the true body of Christ full of his spirit-multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-generational, love, generosity, healing, transformation, forgiveness, joy, and mutual prosperity, the real church Welcome everything.

The local congregation may or may not be about new things that God is doing. When they are — they are fascinating. If not, well, God can leave our building — but God does not stop being God.

The church needs more Jesus, not more members. It’s not revival, it’s repentance. What we should be afraid of is the church that refuses to belong to Jesus, not those who refuse to belong to it.

The letter to the editor will be returned on Wednesday.