July 25, 2007 Matthew

Itching Ears and Church Attendance

Most of the world is infatuated with religion and seeking the spiritual. The West is a place where people are semi-infatuated with church. Forty percent of the population of America attend a church of some kind. That doesn’t even include home churches not officially recognized.
The map below represents “church” attendance percentages. Church as accounted for by this map is at essence, whatever the people themselves have considered a church. But of course a church can be all sorts of things. Typically though, it represents at essence, a building, a bible, and God with a capital “G”. What is not recorded here is the percentages of sub-Saharan Africa, with exception to Nigeria. In many of these places, you would find percentages in upper part of the scale like Nigeria where almost 90 percent of the population attend church regularly.

As you can see, Americans are 40 percent church-goers. They are charmed by it. Fascinated with it. Sentimental to it.

At the same time, the Western church is completely left behind in the work of God in the spread of his Kingdom across the earth. While American church ministers are ever fidgeting with religiosity, or the theology of theology, or the semantics of the greek word for “and”, or even trying endlessly to figure out what’s wrong with their churches, God is away in battle for the lives of many. Something is not adding up.

Just what are American “Christians” seeking?

The Barna group recently did some research only to find what we all really knew but just didn’t have down in numbers:
American Individualism Shines Through in People’s Self-Image
Sociologists call this the era of hyper-individualism – and with good reason, according to the latest report from The Barna Group. Interviews with more than 4000 adults show that Americans generally see themselves as independent thinkers, loyal and reliable, and making a positive difference in the world. They support traditional family values but are open to considering new moral perspectives. And while their faith is very important in our lives, it may not be very influential in our decision-making.” (July 23, 2007)

Going to church is important for hoards of American people. But it’s not influential in making life decisions.
That means there is no lordship of Jesus Christ.
That means there is no surrender of self as a living sacrifice.(Rom. 12:1)
That means there is no cross-carrying.
That means there is no priority of seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness.(Matt. 6:33)
That means there is no love for God with all heart, soul, mind, strength.
That means there is no real spiritual life.
(yet 62% of Americans think they are deeply spiritual)

They say the evangelical Christians make up some 5 to 10 percent of the American population. Evangelical Christians are defined as those being born-again, who say their faith is very important in their life today, have personal responsibility witness, acknowledge existence of Satan, believe that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, believe that Christ lived a sinless life on earth, that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches, and that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.

Chances are the majority of your congregation are coming for the wrong reasons with wrong expectations. The pastor and church-planter must deal with this epidemic.

But why is this sort of thing happening: masses of people loving their utilitarian, expedient church going lifestyle of death?

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)

For the time is coming when men will not tolerate wholesome teaching. They will want something to tickle their own fancies, and they will collect teachers who will pander to their own desires. They will no longer listen to the truth, but will wander off after man-made fictions. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 Phillips)