Thursday, June 28, 2007

In ______ We Trust

Check out this news story about a Gallup Poll whose findings included that only 46% of people surveyed "had either a 'great deal' or 'quite a lot' of confidence in the church"

So, what are we to make of this?

Is it like when a health scare hits a fast food restaurant and no body wants to eat there? Recently the Ted Haggard scandal could have been a case for folks to distrust the church- how could a prominent preacher have a double life?

Do people not trust the church because of money? Are the televangelist fiascoes of the 80's still lingering in people's minds?

It would be interesting to me to see how the survey was framed and what questions were asked and by what criteria people were selected. But to me this is could be telling about what the church is facing.

Unless you live in Springfield MO (with like, 12 huge churches on every block) the church isn't the center of the community. No longer can we just assume that people have had a basic Judaeo-Christian worldview or have "been raised" or "been around" church. Ministering to people who have been raised in church is like, step 3. We have to start at step 1- ministering to people who are a little suspicious of "religion" or "church". This is accomplished by individuals in congregations building relationships with folks outside of the church. Not like people who "don't go to church" are our labrats or something, but loving folks is what are job is, regardless of whether they go to church! Step 2 is gaining trust through honest care for the person, getting to know their struggles, their needs, their perceptions of the church. That's the challenge of 21st century ministry, which probably isn't a new challenge at all, showing people that the church is the body of Christ charged with doing his work and building the Kingdom of God. So really...not much has changed...just go do God's work and the "trust statistics" should hopefully climb!

But that leads me to another thought. I would like to see what percentage of folks surveyed identified themselves as "Christian" or more vaguely as "religious". What if the 46% are the ones who are Christian and the rest aren't? Then does the burden of "trustyness" fall on the church? Or is it simply people don't want to have to change their lives as a result of the Gospel? Maybe you don't want to trust what you fear will make you confront your thoughts about life and the ways you live it?

The danger in this can be a quite a nice self-fulfilling prophecy. I was in a discussion with a friend once and they remarked: "Well the only true bible preaching churches are going to be small, because the gospel isn't popular". Hmmm. Isn't that a cozy justification for a stagnant community. (Insert comment about how 'it's not about the numbers here') I'm just saying this is tricky stuff. How can the church be inclusive of folks who are distrustful but still faithful to our mission and the Gospel of Christ which transforms hearts and changes lives?

1 comment:

Professor RJ Gumby said...

Polls generally bother me, because they tend to try to measure things that cannot be measured...i.e., faith, religion, the church. I think the questions are absolutely critical .

One of the coolest examples of outreach was the Confessional Booth in Blue Like Jazz. It was in the middle of a bacchanalian festival, and the group that did it reversed the roles and confessed for the sins of the church. So maybe if we come down from our "anointed" thrones more often, we can get more people to a point where they open up.

The entire Bible has to be taught. We need to link scripture back to its roots in the Old Testament and bring it into the New. I think true Bible teaching churches will flourish. Having attended dieing, Bible optional churches in the past, I find it refreshing to be in a church that helps me explore the Word and lets the Word do the talkin'

The key is to bring the church into the center of the new definition of community, which is not the "olde town center" any longer. Communities are all over and each needs a different approach. I pray we will get to be in the center of a community at Living Word. But we also have to reach the other communities, such as seniors, students, WCM's, business people, and even...dare I say, politicians.

Should be fun, and we will definitely chip a few nails and break some glasses.

Scott Watson