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Why Bother?

As I have served in the ministry for nearly 35 years, I have done it all it seems.

I have preached over one thousand sermons, been involved in church music as a trainer and as a leader, hosted countless vacation bible schools, traveled with our youth groups to camps, and kept a vibrant midweek bible study going for 20 years.

In addition, I often remark that I have done everything from bathrooms to baptisms. Why? Because it is true.

None of this is to brag. In fact, what I’ve done has little to do with my concern here.

My church, like so many others, is aging. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that the median age in the United States is now 39.4 years.  In 1990, the time when I first started, the age was 32.9. In 1970, it was 28.1.

Still, even late thirty-somethings are absent in my congregation and probably yours, too. Very few churches can attract and keep this demographic.

The reasons are plentiful.

The plethora of online preaching and teaching is ubiquitous. If someone has an interest in theology, YouTube, along with many other podcast platforms, can afford them a study at any hour of the day. So, why attend a church on Sunday and go through the hassle of getting everyone ready and out the door?

Author Carey Nieuwhof rightly observes, “Increasingly, I’m convinced there’s no point to merely attending. You drive all the way in to connect with three or four songs, hear the message and then head home. All of that you could almost do by yourself in a much more convenient way. Slip on Spotify and grab the message via podcast or on demand and boom, you’re covered.”

This is a compelling argument. It is not biblical, but compelling.

If the goal is simply “attending,” then Nieuwhof is correct. Stay at home in your jammies and find a convenient time to listen to a myriad of teachers at your leisure.

There must be something more when the church gathers than four songs, a sermon, and a “I’ll see you next week. Don’t forget your offering!”

In a hyper individualistic society that values experience and entertainment, the church is going to fall short every time if the attendee has a consumer mentality. The reason? Most churches are behind technologically and are out of touch with current trends. You can see the eyes roll when something campy and outdated happens in a church. And you hear their inner voice saying, “Not for me.”

To be sure, the church, as in almost every generation, lags. 

So, if entertainment is your barometer to spirituality, we are going to miss the mark.

In the few words I have left, don’t be an attendee. Church is communal. It is coming early and lingering afterward. It is serving rather than being served. It is altruism versus consumerism.  It is the sense that generations past saw the value in mutual worship and passed that along to us albeit clumsily.

Replace the cynicism of presentation with the longing for a deeper connection to one another and to God.

If you and I do these things, then, no matter the age, we will fulfill our calling as followers of Christ.

Kent Simmons is the pastor of Canyon Community Church in Kingman, AZ.