When last did you drive around on a Sunday morning at around 9 or 10 am and look at the mainstream churches in the cities around you? Probably not for a while? Well when we are away on holiday we get a chance to see what is happening in other parts of our land or other cities abroad. One thing that is easy to notice is that churches are empty. Not all churches, but most! And by empty I mean almost totally empty.
We recently traveled through Europe and as one does, passed through and looked at many of the huge cathedrals in the cities in France and Italy. Many of the churches were nothing more than tourist attractions and others were just neglected. Only on one occasion in Zurich did we see a lot of younger people outside the church all standing around chatting after a service. Why is it that churches are so empty these days? I suspect it has been this way for quite a while now. Now before you start writing to tell me about the mega churches out there, with tends of thousands of people attending every week, I am well aware of that. I am talking about main line denominational churches that once were packed with people, and now the halls stand empty.
I believe the issue is that churches are just not relevant. We live in an information age that is booming. Wherever you turn there are people connected to technology. They use their mobile phones for everything!!! And then to take a break from their phone, they use the computer connected to the internet and when they tale a break from that they have television. There is entertainment and information on tap. Now we take church which is dishing up out of date songs, where the ministers speak in a language that no-one relates to, using terminology that is foreign to most people. There is very little to no use of technology such as social media as part of the service and people are discouraged from using their phones in church. I understand all of the reasons why, and of course churches are places of worship etc. etc. But church is supposed to be a place where we love to hang out. Young people these days just find it so boring.
I am not advocating making church another entertainment program competing for your attention. But I am saying that if we dont bring church into the realm of what people can relate to we will never get them in the doors and then we will never reach them unless we all go out there into the world. Jesus told us to go, yes of course. But bringing people to a happening church is a fantastic way to reach people for Jesus.
Pastors need to think about making church relevant, and that means using people who are of the age bracket that you are trying to reach in your teams, as well as preaching on relevant topics – there is nothing more relevant than Jesus! But we need to package our message in an attractive way. There is no need to wash down the message of Jesus, and there is no need to be ashamed of preaching the gospel. But church must find a genuine way to do it that people will enjoy attending. It is the challenge of our time.