There seems to be a trend that people aren’t going to church anymore. According to some, this is a new phenomenon. H0wever, the American Church has seemingly had this fear for decades. The secularization of the country has created panic for the conservative denominations. Looking back to the Scopes Monkey trial, Fundamentalism has been concerned with the religious life of Americans.
Lifeway put out an article in June of this year about the lack of church attendance. They note that the post-COVID attendance numbers are 15% lower than before the pandemic. At the end of the day, they call pastors and leadership of local churches to rebuild bridges to those who have not returned. While I agree this is important, part of me is skeptical that these efforts will only be in good faith.
If you are like many that have lost the routine of going to church on Sunday’s (myself included), here’s a quick guide to see if you even should go back to church.
Are You Ready To Go Back To Church?
Some people stopped going to church during the pandemic and never started again. Maybe you’re one of the many who found the convenience of online church and attend from home. I talk about my opinions of online church services in this article. While I do think a physical church is important, online church can bridge the gap when getting to a service is hard or impossible. I heard many stories of those who were homebound finally having community. I think the virtual church has it’s place.
However, many people leave because it’s time to leave. When my wife and I left our church, we knew it was time to go. We had talked about it for awhile and agreed that, while we loved the people there, it wasn’t the right fit. Our theology and priorities had changed and we wanted to find a community that affirmed these changes. Going back to church was a goal we had because we wanted to be part of the body.
If you’ve seen any number of documentaries on recent church scandals, you know there are people who are abused by the church. Neither my wife or I felt that our church was abusive, and I am very thankful for that. Still, there are many who find themselves burned out by the church systems they were a part of. If you left a church because of abuse, it may take a long time to go back. Much like a broken bone, you need time to be still and heal before you can use that limb again.
What Do You Need From A Church?
There are many different denominations and styles of churches. I like to say there isn’t a right way to do church, but there is definitely a wrong way to do church. Different people at different times will need different things. Someone who needs structure in their life might choose a more fundamentalist church that prioritizes a lecture style preacher. On the other hand, if you’re looking for personal growth, a church that interprets the scripture for the modern day without focusing on exegesis may be a better fit.
My wife and I recently had a child and now we look at what is being taught to kids in Sunday school. We want to make sure our son will be able to experience a healthy learning environment. This is definitely a new concern for both of us. A few years ago, we weren’t even thinking about Sunday school. Now, it’s one of the first things we prioritize.
It seems that, no matter if you go to church or not, religious practice is important to a healthy and satisfying life. Dr. Andrew Newberg’s book How God Changes Your Brain is a scientific look at what religion does to our neuroscience. There are certain practices that will help develop a healthy worldview, while other’s can be detrimental. This book changed the way I practiced my faith and is a must read.
Today is National Back to Church Sunday. While I think being involved in the local church is important, I understand the many reasons why people don’t go to church. There is so much about the American Church that I disagree with. At the end of the day, the healthy Christian will find a group of people who they can share their life with. Some will find this community in the church walls. Others will find it at a bar with a few close friends. While our faith is not constrained to a building, it will not be full without community.