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Be Honest and Authenticby Duane Mabee on May 11, 2017
The book Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them by the Barna Group is a statistic heavy, but fascinating look at those who choose not to attend church. It is a good read for Christians because we have some significant misconceptions about what the unchurched are like.
Forty-three percent of the U.S. population is unchurched. Thirty-three percent of the total U.S. population is De-Churched. Only 10% have never attended a church. Get ahold of what that means. Thirty-three percent of the total U.S. population were at one point active in church, but aren’t any longer. They have tried church and decided it isn’t for them. Why?
There are a lot of reasons people drop out of church. I won’t go into all of them. You might want to get a copy of the book and check them out. One reason stands out to me. They were looking for honesty and authenticity in their relationships in the church, but didn’t find it. “If we are honest with ourselves, authenticity is not always a characteristic of church life,” (Barna). It should be, though. What these “dropouts” are looking for is exactly what Jesus said should define Christian relationships.
Part of what they are looking for is the ability to openly process doubts and questions about the faith and how it connects to the world as it is. They want to be listened to. They want their concerns to be dealt with honestly. They don’t want pat answers that don’t address the realities they are facing. Churches need to provide an “honest and safe place for people to wrestle with doubts and questions, so they can discover for themselves – while still remaining connected to the Christian community – that historic Christianity offers compelling answers to life’s most important issues.”
We shouldn’t run and hide from difficult questions about the faith. We don’t need to hide behind easy answers or trite phrases that are only understood in Christian circles. Jesus never avoided the tough questions. The gospel is sufficient and can handle the honest wrestling of those who investigate it. We need to get comfortable with their questions and challenges.
We also need to be more open and honest ourselves. This generation does not want to be a part of a group of people who appear to have it all together. They are not fooled or impressed. This generation values openness and honesty about the struggles and failures of life. They prefer to be around broken people – not “perfect” people – and we are all broken in many ways. It does little good to hide that, and it may be causing people to become discontent with the church.
How do we engage those who dropout or are on the verge of dropping out? It may be that the best place to start is by being more honest with them about who we are and the things that cause us doubts and questions.