We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

We Leave Because We Are Not Happy (Decline & Renewal VI)

The series of guest postings on Jason Locke's Blog, which comes out of the Churches of Christ tradition, raises as we have already seen important points concerning church decline and renewal.  This is true of the seventh article in the series written by Andy Wall entitled, "The View from Andy Wall."

In 2000, Wall conducted doctoral research "to figure out why former members of the Churches of Christ in Southern California had left their home churches," and on the basis of 299 respondents concluded those who left were disaffected with Churches of Christ congregations in three different ways.  Some were disaffected with the way legalistic and even arrogant church leaders and others expressed rigid beliefs.  Others were disaffected with "inconsistencies in attitudes or behaviors in church," which included unloving, unkind attitudes. Finally, some of those who left were disaffected with the relationships they had with other members including esp. pastors and other church leaders.

In the past, the sins of church leaders and members might drive members out of one church into another, but they did not provide impetus for the general decline in organized religious activity that is taking place today.  Staying home on a Sunday morning wasn't socially acceptable behavior, and at any rate many more people simply felt that they "should go to church."  Now, one serious church fight can send a church into a long-term tailspin from which it may never recover, and among those who flee are many who just stop going to church entirely.  Churches find it hard to be the loving, faithful communities of faith they are called to be, and when we fail in our love and faith the consequences are serious.  But, when we don't the results can be quite inspiring and even exciting.  It is just that our batting average isn't all that good.