How much honest, candid communications actually takes place in the average church class or service? The last place on earth that most church goers feel free to express their true opinion about the things in life that really matter is in the church. They may discuss openly their sports preferences and their political leanings, but religious debate or discussion is decidedly absent within both formal gatherings and informal dialogue. In that sense, church going is an ironic activity. The realm of religion supposedly addresses life’s most important and profound subjects, and yet within the institutional church where one might reasonably expect a forum for discussing these issues, no such discussion generally takes place. Ministers of nearly every description tiptoe around the most basic of questions, regurgitating the traditional “answers, but never by any stretch of the imagination encouraging honest evaluation and discussion.
If one does not attend church in order to learn and grow spiritually, what is the purpose then? The church has sold the idea that we go to church to worship and please God. It is our duty. We don’t go to gain anything for ourselves. This purpose for the church makes God in need of man’s adoration and even demanding of that adoration. This picture of God is not at all flattering, since it makes Him seem self absorbed and ego centric in ways that we would certainly not admire or commend in a fellow human being. Conveniently, this concept that we attend church for God and not to benefit ourselves through a process of learning and growth also means that the clergy are never stretched beyond the dogma of the past.
Some churches may include the idea that church attendance is a source of encouragement for the attendees, but any questioning of established church doctrines is not seen as encouraging. Therefore, openness and honesty are relinquished in favor of “tranquility” which insures that the congregants and the clergy alike can sleep walk through every assembly.
The idea that church attendance is a sacred duty and not aimed at helping men deal with the big life questions is precisely the reason why many today forsake the institutional church. The younger generation consistently demands a relevant church experience. They want answers which make a difference in their day to day lives, No longer is church going seen as a duty; it most have value for the attendee. Some in the church see this as a monstrous presumption or an affront to God. In fact, it is precisely what should be demanded of the church. Too long the average congregant has allowed the institutional church to get by with perpetuating the insufficient answers of the past instead of stepping up to the need to re-evaluate and determine why traditional understandings are so obviously insufficient. People are just plain tired of being spoon-fed the same old doctrinal positions and told that they are inviolate because that is either what the Bible teaches or what church tradition has transmitted. Even the mildly initiated church goer recognizes that what the Bible teaches is a matter of emphasis as well as interpretation. If it were not so, why are there so many different denominations? Pontification about the sanctity of orthodoxy and strident warnings about heresy and apostasy, no longer deter many from questioning what they have heard and been taught. The church can either address these questions or become ever more irrelevant to most people. The world has changed and it’s not going back, no matter how much the traditionalists may cry about it.