I had no idea where I was going to go with the topic of spirituality, so I started out looking at some statistics… and ended up writing a bunch of long-held thoughts about the state of “church”. You’ve been warned.
Now, more than ever before, we’re able to track and study so many interesting aspects of life.
Allow me to geek out just a bit on some statistics because it’s SO interesting. It might not seem that spiritually significant, but I think I can tie it together.[Check out Worldometers for all these stats. It’s crazy to watch the live numbers.]
Supposedly it took all of human history up until approximately 1800 for the world population to reach 1 billion. Subsequent billions only took 130 years, 30 years, 15 years, 13 years, 12 years, and 12 years again (hitting 7 billion in 2011).
In just the 20th century, the world grew from 1.65 billion to 6 billion, and there were only about half as many people in the world in 1970 as there are in 2019. Crazy!
With a world as vast as ours, it’s easy to lose sight of how diverse we all are. It’s easy to get too stuck in our own heads and ways of doing things.
Living in the U.S. gives people the chance to rub shoulders with a wide range of cultures and perspectives, but let’s be real – you have to be intentional about it for the most part. Waking past someone on the street or bumping into them at the grocery store doesn’t exactly give you a look through their lenses.
Realistically, only less than 5% of the world population is in the U.S. And yes, the U.S. is a big player with massive influence, but I think it would make sense to consider the other 95+% of humanity as potentially having equally valid experiences and perspectives. Just maybe.
My parents both spent time in other countries growing up, and they provided opportunities for myself and my brothers to experience other cultures as well – being part of a program that connected international college students with families, and living a year and a half of my teenage years in China, for example.
Marrying a man from Costa Rica and spending time with our family there, as well as extended visits to my parents who now live in Mexico, has also given me a broader understanding of the diversity of humanity and way of thinking.
Besides growing up in Latin America, David lived in Israel for about a year and a half and was also able to visit Turkey during that time. We both love experiencing other cultures and ways of life, and we recognize that there is
We come from a Christian background, and only around 1/3 of the rest of the world identifies as Christian, with 50% of that being Catholic.
That leaves a huge swath of humanity with vastly different backgrounds and perceptions of God and religion.
The internet is bringing us closer together and giving us the opportunity to identify with each other in ways we weren’t able to before, but how many of us are really taking advantage of that ability?
I know for myself, through personal blogs and vlogs I’ve been able to see how extremely similarly Mormons and Catholics experience God at a personal level to the Evangelical Christian experience I grew up with, for example, which is certainly not the expectation or understanding within that Christian bubble.
The Highly Divided Body of God
A statistic that’s been spouted for many years references that there are 33,000+ Christian denominations. Which is apparently grossly and ridiculously
The funny thing about the Catholic article that refutes and explains the statistic is that it points out even 2 denominations should be considered an embarrassment, citing Ephesians 4:4-6, and stating “Any division in the body of Christ is a scandal”.
While I completely agree with the premise, I imagine I might have a slightly different conclusion on the solution.
God’s body most certainly should be unified. However, not every minute detail need
Take our human bodies, since that is the analogy.
A hand is going to have a wildly different perspective and experience from a liver. A toenail might think very differently from an eardrum.
It’s actually pretty mind-blowing to stop and consider how amazingly diverse and numerous the parts that make up our bodies are.
Yet, what makes one’s body unified is essentially the head, which is what Jesus identifies himself as in the analogy.
We put way too much emphasis on “doing” church.
One of the fundamental reasons for different denominations is
For far too long, we’ve essentially gathered in little groups focused (at least subconsciously) on differences from the rest of the body of God.
Along the same lines, attendance is often largely legalistic or merely ritualistic.
I see so many churches churching just to church.
I personally think that’s the biggest reason for any decline in attendance, particularly in the younger demographic – humanity is
You can cite all sorts of reasons, from being too busy to different beliefs, but ultimately, the bottom line comes down to lack of connection to meaning.
I don’t for a second think spirituality is really in decline.
Rather, I believe the traditions of men are being shaken as God calls humanity into a bigger picture.
ometers are turned up.
From where I stand, these are perceived reasons to “go” to church:
- Peer pressure
- Tradition or ritual
- God asked you to
- To feel something
- To learn something
- To teach something
- To encourage one another
- To connect/better relationships
- To be accountable/part of something
- To worship God corporately
- To serve in some way
- To help discover your place in God’s body
For many, the guilt and peer pressure has fallen
So that means one, or a combination, of the other
Thing is, apart from tradition, ritual, and specific guidance from God, the other needs or goals can all be met elsewhere quite easily now.
Truthfully, they’re often better met elsewhere.
I feel it’s not unlike the way a traditional school is able to facilitate individual learning and growth. Some love it and thrive, others not so much.
People don’t want to BS themselves
They’ve realized that visiting a special building once a week doesn’t make one more or less a part of God’s body, so when that ritual isn’t honestly the best place for any of the other potential reasons for being there, why continue?
But don’t we owe it to God’s body to meet in special buildings?
Individual preferences and concerns are one thing, but what about the body of God as a whole – what about our commitment to that?
To that I say yes! Yes.
There is nothing cooler than seeing the body of God truly come together to make a difference in the world. I imagine.
It is disheartening and tiresome to see more than anything, people banding together in little clubs, doing their own thing and trying to get more people to join their club with seldom any regard for how they might fit in the larger body of God.
I can’t help but think God’s probably more than just a little tired of his body functioning so inefficiently, and wonder if just maybe he grows weary of us opening up a new toenail club here, a fingernail club there… when there’s already a fingernail and toenail club a few blocks down. Oh, but we’re doing a trendy new style of
Why are we so stuck on churching this way? I can’t help but think it’s because it’s easiest not to rock the boat. Rocking the boat can feel scary.
I know it probably sounds crazy, but hear me out.
If we have to make clubs, what if they were more based around what the hands were doing, or where the feet were walking…
What if that even changed somewhat frequently?
Sort of like how hands don’t keep going through the motions when they’ve finished one task… unless OCD. Or like, totally zoned out.
What if we didn’t spend all the energy trying to run better clubs and recruit for our clubs and build club buildings, etc.???
What if we put that energy into doing bigger stuff?
I know there are plenty of “what ifs” and “hows”… like:
- How do we make sure people don’t fall through the cracks? (You mean like they do now?)
- What about babysitting people’s spiritual growth? (Like the Holy Spirit?)
But it’s ok to not have all the answers upfront. It’s ok to have growing pains like the early church did.
I can’t help but believe God’s people should be mature enough by now to work together better and do more than we’ve been doing… and I think they’re starting to!
We all have different gifts and different interests/passions/things God has put on our hearts… but I think it’s too easy to just resort to doing “church” instead…
Why I don’t think the answer is just adding more stuff to traditional church…
I had somewhat of a front seat to a lot of the operations and church politics during my 10-year stint as secretary of the club I grew up in.
I love my home club. It’s a really great one with really great people who really love God and each other. It used to make me lowkey sad when some of my friends didn’t come that often. On the one hand, it felt sort of like sheesh, what’s
But then my outlook completely shifted when I realized God had never equated his body to the number of people who visit special buildings once a week, which was largely just a tradition of men, and we’ve been really over
For a while, it was like fingernails on a chalkboard to sit through most services anywhere we went, but we kept going for the most part because it felt easier to go than not go. (I didn’t want to have to answer questions and also didn’t want people to potentially feel like I used to above.) I also didn’t want to be in a state of resistance, finding a thousand things to disagree with and just wishing it was over the whole time, so I would pray and read the Bible or some other book I was studying on my phone as I waited for it to be over. (Don’t get me wrong, I would always try to go into it hopeful and was definitely sometimes pleasantly surprised – probably pretty much exclusively at my home church because they’re cool like that.)
Eventually, I got over my extreme frustration with church services and got to the point where I just loved God’s people and appreciated their hearts regardless of how theologically sound the worship lyrics and such might be.
The reality is, there might always be some people who traditional church is for… but I don’t think we were ever meant to get stuck with one model of doing life as the body of God.
I can’t help but think that if “doing church” was largely replaced by “being
Maybe instead of a few people putting a bunch of effort into maintaining a functioning club while most members of the club just observe or participate randomly, those few people could put their hours into a broader work. And maybe without the crutch of tradition and the ability to subconsciously pawn off responsibility on “leadership”, a bigger swath of people would be motivated to take more ownership in their own spiritual journey… be inspired to contemplate more… be empowered to follow the Spirit’s prompting toward bigger things… just maybe.
I sense the Spirit is ready and waiting… and certainly quite capable.
I’m sorry, I just find the prospect really exciting.