I don’t know what the ratings were for yesterday’s NFL games, or the game in prime time last night. I also have no idea how they will be for the Giants – Steelers game on Monday Night Football tonight. They will have at least one viewer, -- me! What I do know is that the ratings for the opening game last Thursday night were not good, and down from last year. Now, that could be do the fact that the game was not close, and thus not interesting. It could be that people have learned to live without sports, and have found other things to do instead of being glued to the tv for over 3 hours to watch a game. Maybe, the experience is just not the same without fans in the stands.
I also think it has to do with the negative perspectives that people have for the players (and owners), involved in playing a kid’s game, but being paid a king’s ransom. Top that off with backlash against all the social justice issues, kneeling for the anthem, and the conflation of sports and politics as Election Day draws closer and people are tuning out, because in tuning in they want to be entertained, -- not lectured to, or made to feel bad over that what is going on in society is their fault.
Believe it or not, the same kind of negative attitudes can be said of the Church. We are constantly thinking people are either too busy or too tired to commit to a body of Christ. Or, that people don’t go, because they think the church is full of hypocrites. I always thought that one was a more of an excuse then a reason. There are experts who study why people go to church. And we track this data closely, because we think we need this information to better help us design our churches to be user-friendly, attractive, and to bring in more bodies through the front doors.
In his book, “Exit Interview,” William Hendricks stood at the back door of churches and ask the people why they were leaving. He traveled the country talking to people who had not left the faith, -- but who had left the church. He says, “The first time I heard a pastor say, ‘You must be careful about this grace thing, because people will take advantage of it,’ I thought the pastor had a point.” And then, William Hendricks said he heard it a second time, a third and a fourth, over and over again.
He writes, “Modern day American Protestantism has given back a lot of theological ground that Luther, Calvin, and the other reformers in their heritage paid for in tears, and that Christ paid for in blood. Most churches preach grace and live works. Story after story bore this out. The results were invariably tragic. Perhaps the greatest tragedy was that a system promising forgiveness to people and freedom from guilt, ended up making so many of them feel so guilty.”
This attitude that we must be perfect, and look down our noses at those who are not is keeping people out of the church. It is driving people away from the church. It is also poisoning the lives of those who remain in the church.
Here at Chestnut Level, let’s be part of the solution, and not the problem. Let’s do more than just offer programs. Let’s show people the Lord Jesus Christ! Let’s celebrate the gift of salvation through the cross of God’s Son. And finally, let’s share his amazing grace to those who are searching hope and healing in life.