I read an interesting, and thought provoking, post on Jeff’s blog “Losing My Religion”. Jeff mentions a recent CNN article that discusses how America is “becoming less Christian”.
Please go read Jeff’s post about how our methods of “doing church” seem to having the “unintended effect of polarizing outsiders away from us instead of drawing them in. What we thought would increase our effectiveness and influence may actually be having the opposite effect.”
As I read Jeff’s blog post, I realized that I had seen this for myself while we were missionaries in Ukraine, and I have also had concerns of similar unintended effects (on a smaller scale) as a result of evangelism efforts here in Canada.
While in Ukraine, I saw many churches that had experienced explosive growth during the 90’s, and still heard stories of great “revivals” happening in parts of the country. As a Christian, who can be critical of that? That’s what I thought before I lived there for a while.
After a few months of living there, we got to know a number of people who were no longer part of the “big church” culture there, but who were living their lives to try to model the way of Jesus to the youth in their community. They were facing an uphill battle because, in their words, “many of these kids have already been to a local church, have repented, have said their prayers, and have been rejected by the churches”. The kids were equating God, and Jesus, with their experiences at the church. Now, they wanted nothing to do with God.
Yet, the churches keep thinking they are having success, as their numbers keep growing. But how many people are turning away because of those same “evangelistic” efforts? In my observation, the numbers of those turning away (either immediately or after negative experiences at church) are much higher than most people realize.
I think Jeff’s comment “Sounds almost as if we’ve been cutting down trees in an attempt to save the forest…” is very accurate.
As I posted a while ago, our local church here in Canada staged a production of “Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Flames”… Go back and read my thoughts at the time if you want, but my concerns over that event are similar (not to mention my concern over the theology of the whole thing). Yes, there really are people who do change their lives for the better as a result of that production. I can’t deny that. What begins to concern me is the number of people who make “emotional” decisions after the production, but nothing really changes.
An even greater concern is the effect on people who see the production and decide that “if this is what God is really like, I want no part of it”. And they walk away from God, directly as a result of our well meaning but misdirected efforts at evangelism.
“Sounds almost as if we’ve been cutting down trees in an attempt to save the forest.”
Yes Jeff, we sure seem to be doing that…