Sitting in church awaiting the still common Sunday service, I cannot help notice the dwindling numbers and lacking newcomers, and ponder possible reasons why.
I fear that religion has become almost a taboo topic nowadays; it is rarely the topic of conversation. It was once the thing that everyone did: going to church on a Sunday was a ritual for most.
Today, the numbers dwindle in churches and discussion is entered into with a weary uncertainty I notice sometimes. I can see belief around me when I look for it on a day-to-day basis, but I fear that the practice of our belief isn’t finding the right footing in the modern world.
I watch the crowd at church, and I notice their make up of age, race, gender, and numbers. I have moved 3,000 miles in the past 12 months and see the same crowd around me. The only key difference in people’s make up is age. Most of the audience is elderly, and I cannot help but wonder what it will be like in the next 30 years as this last large group moves through into their heaven.
I wonder if the older traditional ways of the church prevent it from finding a place in the world of seven-day trading and 24-hour shopping. With such a change to our lifestyles, how does the continued standard Sunday service fit in?
I wonder about the words spoken. Sermons have mostly been modernized, and the discussion is now moving to an everyday language in a lot of the churches, which is relatable, understandable, and engaging, but the hymns and the pre-sermon talk are still very much unchanged, and as a result, I fear that they leave the majority of people today unable to relate to them.
Of all things, evolution, especially our evolving attitude in life, has significantly developed over the past sixty years. We have seen significant changes in the justice system. I walk around older areas of my new location and read of convicts serving seven years for stealing a loaf of bread. I wonder if this drastic change in justice and many other parts of our social environment have left the church in an uncertain position in the minds of our new generations.
I have seen openness and willingness in the church and its people, but I have also seen practices that have remained unchanged for my lifetime, which seem out of touch in the current modern world. I am afraid that it may have scared off those who I have come close enough to be interested. I have seen old scripture readings scare away newcomers who do not understand the kinder meaning that the scripture works toward.
We are in an era of encouragement: using the carrot instead of the stick and choosing our words and actions to assist the audience in front of us. I cannot help but wonder if a bit more of this may assist the church and attendees further in finding their evolved state.
I feel disheartened as the ‘doorknockers’ corner people and try to force their views into others’ homes. Do they realize that they are acting like telemarketers and door-to-door salesmen, who are seen as invading people’s privacy and space?
Today, I see people wanting the access and the time to find the right service for them. I see people wanting to believe but also wanting it in a modern way and with a service that integrates with the rest of the world around them. I see people who like the idea of religion, a community focus, and an extended family, but who fear the force of those pushing it onto others.
The commandments continue to be the basis of societies around the world regardless of race or various other religions. But they may possibly need a modern language and stage, one that relates more so to the world around us and not the world that finished 100 A.D.
Photo: Flickr/Sigursteinn AKA SHUGA Sigurdsson