These last few days it normally would have been the high days with full churches, but since a few years we can find lots of empty or abounded churches. In the 1960-70ies from the 24th of December until January the 6th it was one church service after the other. At that time January the 6th as Feast of Epiphany, remembering the “three kings” visiting Jesus was a holiday. Now every one has a normal working day and there shall not be noticed many at an early church service or mass. Christmas today looks more at a commercial feast where most people have a “Winter event” or “Winter world meal and happening.”
At normal weekends there are not many who attend church, and at the special days for the Catholics and many protestants, like Christmas and Easter the churches are not as full any-more as after the second World War. Everywhere we can see in the Western world that the trend of diminishing church attendance has become particularly evident.
The children and the parents have a lot of activities on their agenda and can travel much more, what they enjoy much more than sitting in a church, where often there is not much of a family sphere. When people are out of town, they tend to not be in church and are not so interested to go for looking to attend a church-service at an other place (they do not know). Today we also have many more mixed families, with a mixture of children of different church affiliations as well, which makes it very complicated to go to one or an other church.
In an age where we have access to everything, more and more people are self-directing their spirituality … for better or for worse. Similarly, another characteristics of the post-modern mind is a declining trust of and reliance on institutions. The church in many people’s minds is seen as an institution. for many those institutions are also guilty of many wrong things and of unpunished dirtiness.
Today certain churches seem only to be visited by a christening, first communion, second communion, marriage and funeral.
When you meet people you shall not encounter many who would feel guilty when they did not go to a Sunday or Saturday service. People are looking less to churches and leaders to help them grow spiritually, and more to other options. Lots of people think they can do it all by themselves and they do not feel they need somebody for their “spiritual growth”.
For a long time the main churches seemed to have been ignoring the situation which made that they did not begin to think about possible ways to build faithfulness. those who were concerned about loosing people tried to get more people by showing that they were also part of the world, presenting modern or pop-music and popular events. Orientating on shows and pleasure events they did not take so much attention for the spiritual reason of gathering. They should know that if people view the church as just another expendable activity and consider it as a sort of “club” or “entertainment” they are more likely to neglect the more important matters of “making church” or of “having church”. We agree the meeting itself is an important matter. The gathering with pleasure is an essential part of gathering. But we may not forget that it should all be about faith and about worshipping the Most High God of gods.
Jesus had never the intention to start a new church. Originally the followers of Jesus were considered an obscure Jewish sect. It was from the moment goyim were taken into the group that Jews got having problems with meeting with non-Jews. The non-Jews were also not allowed to enter the holy temple. As such certain followers of the group “The Way” got excluded from the Jewish community, though with the Jewish followers of the rabbi Jesus they still could meet, though in private and public houses. Their meetings were considered as a covenant community where they remembered what Jesus had done for them and how they too became partakers of that New Covenant.
That feeling is not at all any more in the main churches. There, for sure, also does not seem to be any connection with the Jewish community. Though in certain regions, like ours in the Benelux, there are efforts to have good relationships with the Judaic community and to have closer contacts with those Jews that recognise the Messiah in the person of Jeshua (Jesus) and therefore call themselves Jeshuaists (Followers of Jeshua or Followers of Jesus). Such groups may find some interested people from the main churches who got disillusioned by the many lies of those churches and by the many scandals of the recent years.
It were mainly those paedophile and/or sexual abuse scandals which brought most damage to the Roman Catholic Church. For the protestant churches there was not such a horrible blame, but there people could not find any connection any more with their real life and the life presented by their church. Lots of churches seemed to be standing with one foot in an other world and with the other in a world they themselves could not understand or follow.
As Biblescholars we were annoyed to see how those churches did not give enough attention, time and space, to the study of the bible. In many main churches there was not much time used to properly teach their members how to grow in a relationship with God and in relationships with others. Lots of time was spend to frighten them with stories of eternal hellfire and other sorts of punishments. They made their flock more afraid of God (by this intimidation) than getting them interested in the love of God.
We also could notice in the main churches everything seemed to be followed from a distance, spectators in the chairs or benches and a priest or minister doing all the sayings and acts. Not much involvement of the parishioners.
We could see how there was not worked at getting community or having the different people a feel of connection. Though Jesus told several times about the essence of our attitude to others and our feelings for others and how we should become one in the family of God. How more churches would have tried to let their flock that feeling of oneness with Christ and oneness with each-other how more likely they would be accountable and consistent in their participation in the life of the church.
People should have to learn that Jesus found it also important to come together and to feel united.
“24 And let us consider one another, to provoke unto love, and to good works, 25 Not forsaking the fellowship that we have among ourselves, as the manner of some is: but let us exhort one another, and that so much the more, because ye see that the day draweth near.” (Heb 10:24-25 GenevaBible)
wrote the apostle Paul to the Hebrew people.
Today it is not different than in the times of the apostles. We too should consider one another to provoke unto charity and unto good works, helping our close ones but also those we do not know so well. But at the same time we should remember not forsaking our gathering together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another and so much the more, when we see that day the prophets spoke off approaching.
Holding tightly to the hope that we say is ours, we should call those who left the main churches and show them that Jesus is the way to God. The time has come that the smaller “parts of the Body of Christ”, as little organs should show how important all organs (intestines, entrails) are. It is up to those smaller groups of faithfuls to show the biblical truth.
Instead of making people afraid we should show the folks how God is a god of love and how He wants people to come to Him.
For our smaller communities not having many means it looks or even might be difficult. We shall need creativity to learn how to implement the way to worship properly and raising the level of commitment. We have to show people the value of gathering.
Today lots of people struggle a lot. We know, the times for many are getting worse, so we should be ready to help them and to call them in our protective surroundings. True Christian fellowship inspires and restores. All in a true Christian community are there to be there for every one. Others form outside the community have to see that. They also have to feel the encouragement which is sent out by every one to keep pressing forward together in faith.
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