It's fair to say that I am not the biggest 'churchgoer' in the world. My 'Sunday best' hasn't been dusted off for an unmentionably long time, and if I were a Catholic then I'd need at least a week free for confession. However that's not to say I don't have Christian beliefs or convictions in the spirituality department, it's just that I don't really speak the church language and my attempts at learning it were about as successful as my attempts at learning French.
I kind of feel sympathy for the cool people in church who are trying hard to attract new faces to their congregations and save souls in the process. Their challenge is nothing short of a huge uphill struggle. It seems to me like the easiest age group to catch are young kids, because lets face it if you give them fun things to do young kids are easily persuaded. However the moment they starts getting into their teens and watching their image more and more, church is in for a battle. Then they go off to college and from my experience that's where church loses the greatest number of its former youthful flock.
'Reaching out' to adults is equally as difficult. Christianity, certainly here in the UK, just isn't deemed as 'cool' and with a tons and a half of stereotyped images to combat even the most earthy evangelist is going to have to work hard to make the idea of church sound appealing.
Sometimes I think that Christian people forget what its like to be one of the so called 'non-churched.' They overlook the fact that church is essentially a whole new culture, with it's own sub-language, clubs, humor and rules. Taking an un-churched person to a church could be fairly compared to taking a nun to a strip club! Imagine for a second, if you will, standing there while everyone around you sings praise and worship songs, prays and listens to their preacher talk. Depending on what kind of church this is, there could be all manner of things happening from the simple eyes closed while praying thing, through to the lifting up of hands and rotating the wrists like a satellite dish trying to tune into the best signal. Or in extreme cases the congregation might all of a sudden start breaking out into a wobble while they sing, or talking in tongues (which often sounds like gibberish) in the prayer times.
Then of course there's the message. "2000 years ago this guy, who was Gods son, but also God, came to earth and after doing some cool stuff he was crucified. But he died for your sin. So you can live forever - cool huh!" Errr... okay. "Jesus Love You!" Try explaining that to someone who you've just told that Jesus was put to death 2000 years ago. It is of course way more complex (and simple?) than that. I'm just paraphrasing of course, but you get my point.
It's a tough sell, and it's not made any easier by the fact that in today's sexually active society, Christianity's biggest export (apart from Jesus) is the whole 'no sex before marriage' thing. That's a tough sell in a society with spiraling divorce rates and a 'try-before-you-buy' mentality. It's perhaps a telling fact that of all the Christians I know, this is the one major stumbling block that often separates them from church in the end.
It's no surprise to me though that church attendance numbers are rapidly falling in the wealthy west. We have so many other cool things to distract us from taking the time to ponder the bigger picture. We've got play stations, movies, clubbing, shagging, exercising, dieting, suing, fighting, profiting, working, heck we've even got blogging to distract us! How on earth are we supposed to find time for God in all of that?
In the end the truth is what it is I suppose, and we'll all learn that sooner or later. In the meantime I'm happy enough not to go to church for the time being thank you very much. Mainly because, in truth, I found that the hardest place to be a Christian was in church.
--- Article Notes ---
Time of death : 21:43 (September 14th 2005)
This started out as a comment on someones blog. But after writing for some time I decided to step away from the piece and see if I could return to it a while later and pick it up again. I never did, so I declared it death some months later.