Over the past few years as a minister there has been a growing narrative that, for many reasons, I haven’t been able to escape. It would seem that the statistics and facts all say that “church” is in decline. Don’t take my word for it either… there are plenty of other Huffington Post authors chiming in about this apparent trend too.
Some say that it’s all about the lack of religion in our schools, laws and culture as if the country is devolving. Some say that the “immediacy” of God, also described as an apocalyptic culture, has been lost. You know, the rapture is coming… Jesus is coming… the end is near… and so on. Let’s not forget my favorite (please pick up on my sarcasm there…) the millennials just don’t think church is “cool” or “tech” enough to enjoy anymore.
Well for all those great possible contributing factors there’s always one that’s somehow missing. Couldn’t it possibly, just maybe, have something to do with the fact that what most people of the western world consider “church” happens to be accompanied by an outdated theology?
I’m not saying this because the traditional theology of the western Judaeo-Christian world view is somehow bad or evil and that people shouldn’t continue to believe in those things. By all means, please continue to believe in those ideas if you so choose. The reason I bring it up is because if we are going to talk about “Church” as a thing then we might want to look at all the things we wrap church around. It’s always the theology.
I read articles and statistics and watch videos and debates about this subject and almost NEVER do I hear anyone say, “Maybe it’s because people are not moved by the theology anymore.”
You see, even this silly millennial idea presumes that people don’t want to do churchy things anymore. You know, build community, provide humanitarian support to others, share personal and emotional support structures, care for those who may not have any friends or family to do so, celebrate our accomplishments and develop ways to acknowledge one another when we make powerful changes in our lives or are just simply growing up, etc, etc, etc… the list is genuinely too long to encapsulate.
You noticed that in that whole list there was no mention of a theology right? Good… I knew you would. So when we separate the church from the thing it’s built around, the theology, and just look at what it means to be “churching” we find things most of us still value! In an age when technology separates us from the human touch in so many other areas it would be amazing to have one place carved out to share our humanity with one another. Historically that has always been the church. So what could it be that keeps us from taking or making the time to cultivate that kind of a community? The only thing I can think of anymore is the theology.
This is why I am so proud to be a Religious Science/Science of Mind minister. With out trying to knock anyone’s theology I have a tendency to be unyieldingly passionate about my own. Why? Because for me it has lifted the bonds of the more traditional and doctrinal teachings of the ages. What if we could have all of the things mentioned above with out having to believe in the literal translation of an ancient text? What if we practiced principles rather than followed specific rules? What if the only person who could interpret the unfolding of our relationship with God was ourselves?
Make no mistake, Religious Science accounts for the values and concepts held within those teachings. The difference is that there is no need to have a literal account of how things went down or to have a claim that our teaching is the only way to be safe or saved. Instead, it’s built entirely on the fundamental concepts that all the greatest thinkers of humanity have revealed. Love is the highest power available to us and the only one who can make sure there is always love flowing in our lives is ourselves.
So, while traditional church may be in decline mine is just starting to thrive. If I listen to this narrative that “churching” is going out of style I might hang up my hat and think, “I got to the party too late and now no one wants to dance anymore.” But I don’t. I don’t because as a human being I know that if everyone could have a community that loved and cared for them, their friends and their children they would probably like to be a part of. Human’s are social creatures so why on earth wouldn’t we want a place where we just acknowledge, respect and practice what it means to belong to one another? Call it what you will. I call mine church.