The Short Answer: On Why People Don’t Go to Church Anymore


Here is my concise perspective on the question about declining church attendance among the organised churches (Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism), which I composed nearly a year ago but never posted:

The Church is holding back her spiritual treasures and not making them available to the people, at least not through the pulpit.

I am not willing to go to church to be pontificated at about political issues or cultural values, especially when I may not share them and certainly cannot engage with what is said by debating it with the speaker. I can get all that just by turning on the TV: no true conversation, no real connexion.

If you want a real conversation about these topics with your congregation, hold a forum after services and debate them over lunch, or at least post them to a common website and email a conversation back and forth. Even a blog allowing for comments would be better — but make sure you engage with the other authors, the people who make comments.  Sermons used to be full day affairs, demanding of both speaker and vocal audience.

If homilies actually contained something of spiritual depth, in the manner of spiritual and monastic authors; if they actually demonstrated how to interpret scripture along the four methods; if they left polemic of all sorts — religious or political — aside; if they encouraged anything other than engagement with the current news topic of the day, I would be more prone to see going to church as a fruitful endeavour. Make use of scripture for the sake of revelation about God’s inner life, for the sake of God. That would be novel and nourish my and others’ search for how to deepen a connexion with the divine life.

By all means, inculcate a spiritual maturity which allows people to grow in other communities besides your own; society is much too mobile to be confident the children or young adults in your community will always be there. Talk about standards by which judgement can be made on one’s own, give us principles by which we can make decisions if we change geographic locations — to say nothing of places in life due to age or occupation– but don’t simplify things for us. Let us act in integrity and trust that this is the work you were called to do.  The Holy Spirit will inspire your congregation, just as the Holy Spirit inspires and guides you, if you let it wander where it will.

2010-07-02

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