Many of us attend churches with stagnant or shrinking attendance, yet our buildings are surrounded by an ever-growing population of people who don’t care about Church. Our church bodies continue to operate as though people should just magically show up and want to be a part of what we’re doing. We don’t understand why the increasing amount people who have never stepped foot into a church might not see what we’re doing as vital to their happiness. We don’t see why we should address people who gave up on the faith because they were burned by the church in the past. I used to think that the church doesn’t seek lost souls because we simply can’t imagine doing things differently. But I am now convinced it’s not a lack of imagination that keeps us from re-directing our efforts from navel-gazing to an outward focus on non-Christians.
I don’t think we really believe Jesus matters. I am becoming more and more convinced that the mainline church’s inability to articulate why Jesus has led us to accept a generic “God,” and that it’s better to live and let live than upset someone with a different worldview. In her book Almost Christian, (taken from a John Wesley sermon of the same name), Kenda Creasy Dean explains this kind of religion as “benign whateverism,” “a watered-down gospel so devoid of God’s self-giving love in Jesus Christ, so immune to the sending love of the Holy Spirit that it might not be Christianity at all” (12). And if that’s what our churches have become, then maybe it’s not a bad thing to let them die out so that something better can resurrect from the ashes.