The link above is to an outstanding article from Christianity Today that responds to a recent survey regarding the friendliness of Churches. One of the key questions in the poll in short, asks if “Churches are the friendliest places in town.” What should be a surprise to none was that the answer was that bars and restaurants are friendlier. Now, I agree with Mr. Galli, the writer of this article, when he pretty much points out that this should be alarming to…NO ONE. I want to give a few quotes from the article and make a few comments on them:
This finding puzzled Kimberlee Hauss, the Religion News Service writer who summarized the findings. She asked, "Why would people choose a restaurant or bar over a church?" The hidden assumption here, of course, is that churches should be as friendly as bars.
Chris Howley, director of research of Group Publishing, replied that many people feel "compelled" to be in church. They go out of a sense of obligation and therefore have no spiritual motivation for attending. In contrast, he said, the social atmosphere of a pub or restaurant draws people in without the feeling of obligation.
Either Ms. Hauss is extremely naïve to ask such a question or greatly misunderstands the biblical concept of what a church should be. The question “Why would people choose a restaurant or bar over a church?” can be answered very easily; because they love the things of the world more than they love the things of God. We have people who use flawed, blinded, carnal reasoning when it comes to the things of God – reasoning that they would never apply to any other area of their life! How many times have you heard someone use the tired excuse of “I don’t go to church because I have been hurt” or “I have had a bad experience.” If they were to use that excuse in any other area of their life they would never go out to eat – after all, I am sure they have had a bad experience in a restaurant, and we will give up eating out if we have had a bad experience, right? Please! They have probably still gone back to that SAME restaurant! The countless Little League coaches who you may have had a bad experience with certainly never stopped you from allowing your child to participate in Little League. I could go on with more illustrations, but the truth is that many people rather go to a bar, restaurant, stay at home, go to a game or countless other things rather than go to church because if we get gut-level honest, the things of God bore them to tears. They have no love for God or His people - they go simply out of obligation. Why? Well, Paul makes it pretty clear in Ephesians 2:1 when he is speaking to believers about their life before Christ and he points out that they were “…dead in trespasses and sins.” They don’t care because they are dead to anything spiritual! Should we be shocked that they would rather drink a beer and watch a ball game than learn about the most-high God? Should we be shocked that they know the starting twenty-two players on their favorite football team, but can’t explain the difference between justification and sanctification? Yet, many churches will freak out that they aren’t as friendly as the bar down the street. So, what is our response? We will have churches go out door to door and survey those who are dead, asking what we could possibly do to make the church more comfortable for them. Now, while most good ole boys won’t say this, let me save those churches some time. Here’s an idea--- Don’t preach truth, hang a nice plasma TV up, instead of singing “Before The Throne Of God Above” do a little karaoke to “I Got Friend’s In Low Places”, don’t talk to them about dying to self, the crucifixion, hell or anything else that brings their minds to the things of God and you have a chance of getting the crowd in the doors. The interesting thing is, the church will ask the lost “what must we do to get you in” but the strip clubs never ask God’s people “how can we make this more comfortable for you, so we can get you in here.” The reason - the strip clubs are geared towards lust, sex and the flesh. They know who they should be catering to… many churches on the other hand have forgotten that we gather to Worship God! It is not about me, HE IS OUR AUDIENCE, HE IS OUR TARGET. OUR GOAL IS TO BRING HIM GLORY!
Maybe instead of trying to make the lost as comfortable as possible, we just worship biblically, hold to the Word of God and bring the gospel to a lost and dying world out there. Our goal as we worship isn’t to make the lost comfortable, it is to lift Christ up in His glory. I conclude with another quote from the article that should haunt us:
Could it be that the culture no longer takes the church seriously because we don't take ourselves seriously? Could it be that the more we strive to be as friendly as a bar, the more we'll be viewed as seriously as people view a bar?
Why is it ok for the church and bar to even be comparable? Aren’t we worshipping The Great I AM? Shouldn’t there be fear and reverence, love and patience, grace and truth as we worship? It is commanded that the Body gather together - there is no command for the bar, the grill, or club. It is an “apples and oranges” comparison for those of us at Trinity and for that, I thank the Lord.