Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hurt by Church

This post originally appeared in the April 15 edition of our church newsletter, The Southwest Spirit.

This week I came upon a troubling, though unsurprising, study recently released by the Barna Group. According to the Associate Baptist Press, the Barna Group’s research reveals that “nearly four of every 10 ‘unchurched’ Americans avoid worship because of negative past experiences in churches or with church people.”

The survey revealed some other truths, which we should also take to heart: More unchurched identify themselves as Christians than not, and by a significant margin. However, the overwhelming majority of those surveyed felt they did not have any real understanding of purpose and meaning in life.

Over the next two weeks, I will be sharing a brief, two-part sermon entitled “When Religion Becomes Evil.” I referenced this series last Fall, and it finally fits into our schedule. It is inspired by Charles Kimball’s book of the same name. However, this study released by Barna will be on my mind as well. We already know the majority of the people in all of our communities around the country are not participating in worship on Sunday mornings (or any other day of the week). However, it should sting us all the more to know that for so many, it is their experience with their local church itself (and her people) which keeps them away.

What will this mean for the way we conduct ourselves when reaching out to the unchurched around us? A new kind of genuine sensitivity may be the call of the day.

Thank You!

I want to pause for a moment to share a few words of thank you which seem appropriate during this season.

First, to all of those worship leaders who helped make our Lenten, Maundy Thursday, and Easter worship services so meaningful and complete, I say thank you. The number of hours of preparation which various individuals and groups put into preparing drama, music, and developing our worship plans would surprise many. Our church appreciates and treasures the talent in worship leadership which is God-given, as well as the time and effort returned, which is our sacrifice of praise to God.

Second, to all of those who worked so hard on special children’s and youth activities in the past weeks, we say thank you. We canceled the Easter Fair this year for fear of bad weather, which falls at my feet (not the weather, but the canceling part). However, the effort put into preparation has not been lost on our church family and we look forward to having a substitute family event in the very near future.

Finally, I want to say thank you to our church staff. Larry Smith and Michael Hodges are two fine Christian gentlemen, one who, through his work at the university is serving to mold a new generation of worship leaders and servants, and another who is a part of this next generation of servants. Both are as committed as any church staff with whom I have worked and neither let the term “part-time” compromise their commitment to our church and her ministries.

There are so many more I could thank, and I’m sure I have missed a few. However, we also need to remember to thank those behind-the-scenes as well. So my last “thank you” will be for Mrs. Judy Fussell, our church secretary. Many of you do not know Judy, but you get to see and enjoy the product of her labors every week.

What a wonderful Easter and pre-Easter season at Southwest Baptist. Truly God is good.

Grace and peace,

James