“Are Christians Getting Churched Out?”

Categories: Meditations


Last week, my friend and brother Kent Berman shared some of his spiritual reflections on Facebook.  He observed that the crush of worship services and church activities on Sunday, and indeed through the rest of the week, left him and his family feeling rushed and stressed out.  He suggested that many churches would be better off in thinning out their calendars, leaving more time for Christians to spend on prayer, Bible study, family activity, and getting to know their neighbors.

I thought this was an intriguing idea, and I both partially agreed and partially disagreed with it.  On the “agreement” side, I think it’s easy for American churches to follow the pattern of American culture, which tends toward stress and excess.  To the American mind, the answer to every problem is a program.  Young people leaving the church?  More youth devotions!  Christians with marriage problems?  Let’s have a series of studies! 

I don’t mean to suggest that any of these things, or other things like them, are ungodly.  Individually, they may even be wise.  In the aggregate, however, they result in a calendar so cluttered with worship services and small-group activities and special events that you basically have to be the preacher to show up to all of them.  When many Christians are already leading lives that are overheating with stress, this may well push them to apathy rather than spiritual excellence.

It’s good, then, for church leaders to reflect long and hard before throwing a program at the problem.  That extra teen devo may well be coming out of the few hours a week that teens have to spend with their families, and time with parents is (or at least ought to be) more spiritually influential than anything the devo leader might say.  If parents aren’t spending significant time on spiritual interaction with their kids, well, we’ve found the real problem, haven’t we?  No program can overcome that.

Fundamentally, though, the reason why Christian families are stressed out and don’t have time for spiritual growth and each other isn’t the church.  It’s the culture.  Three assemblies and a small-group meeting aren’t going to stress you out if you aren’t doing anything else with your week (which is why retired Christians show up to things like that and gripe about how younger Christians aren’t).  However, if both husband and wife are working 50 hours a week to make the payments on a 3000-square-foot house, two late-model SUV’s, and $10K in credit-card debt, then yeah, those extra five hours will push you over the edge.  In fact, you may already be over the edge because of little Johnny and Jane and their 50 million extracurricular activities that you have to take them to or be a Bad Parent.

It’s good to question whether the church is trying to do too much.  It’s better to question whether in our personal lives, we are trying to do too much.  In many cases, we have drunk too deeply of our society’s assumptions about prosperity and success, and they’re causing us to wreck our lives. We careen through life screaming at our loved ones, and we blame the church and its five-hours-a-week drain on our time because those materialistic assumptions are too deeply ingrained to question.

I’m all for churches being respectful of their members’ busy schedules.  However, if our lives are crazy and out-of-control, we need to be honest about where the problem really lies.