They hate the church …

Lifeway has released a recent study about how unchurched adults feel about the the church and its inhabitants.

Read the full article here.

Powerpoint presentation here.

Podcast here.

A few choice nuggets below:

“A full 72 percent of the people interviewed said they think the church ‘is full of hypocrites,’” (Ed) Stetzer said. “At the same time, however, 71 percent of the respondents said they believe Jesus ‘makes a positive difference in a person’s life’ and 78 percent said they would ‘be willing to listen’ to someone who wanted to share what they believed about Christianity.”

“We found a real openness to hearing about matters of faith, but the study also clearly documents what I call the Oprah-ization of American Christianity,” he said. “It’s very much a generic ‘big guy in the sky’ view of God and a ‘you believe what you believe, I believe what I believe’ viewpoint on theology. People say, ‘Who am I to judge?’

The negative perception for many people, however, seems to be the church, not Jesus himself, according to the study.

While 64 percent of the respondents think “the Christian religion is a relevant and viable religion for today,” 79 percent think Christianity “is more about organized religion than about loving God and loving people.” Seventy-two percent said they think the church ‘is full of hypocrites, people who criticize others for doing the same things they do themselves,” and 86 percent believe they “can have a good relationship with God without being involved in church.”

The belief that church attendance isn’t necessary for spiritual well-being is just as common among adults who grew up in church as it is among those who attended church less often as children, McConnell said.

Stetzer explained, “There will always be the stumbling block of the cross. Yet our study shows that many are tripping over the church before they hear the message of the cross.”

The reality of these numbers should waken all of us to the task ahead. Perhaps if we quit arguing over the semantics of the words conservative, confession, and inerrant, or the correct methodology of sharing the Gospel with someone, we would cease pushing our faith to the brink of religious irrelevance. The more I surf the musings of many of our denominational leaders the more I sense the frustration that Jesus must have felt in dealing with the religious leaders of His time.

We have become blinded by the heresy of hero worship and ascribed far too much status to fallible and errant men. We have so tightly gripped the handle of personal piety that it has suffocated under the weight of so much expectation. We have scoffed at those who would dare approach us in need, both spiritually and physically, because they don’t speak the same religious tongue as we profess. We ignore their suffering because they don’t dress, talk, act, smell, or believe like us. We become indignant because in their desperate attempt to find meaning and purpose in life they come to us and sit in our seat. We propagate religion in the name of a Savior while dictating who may or may not approach His throne. We criticize, label, and mock those who would dare to suggest a different way or dare question our extravagance in authority. We mask our failures with arrogance and pride while scrutinizing the minutia of our critics in order to hide our inequities. We wage war in an attempt to defend the honor of a God and His word far more powerful, knowledgeable, and good than us.

I could go on. I won’t. We have failed, our vision drifted, our focus blurred, and a our mission was lost in the semantic details.

What excuse will we use in front of Jesus in eternity?

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~ by bchatcher on January 14, 2008.

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