A man was on a journey when he decided to stop and rest. Being late, he wasn’t expecting much to be open, but he was also trying to avoid the crowds so this was a good time. He located a small pub just inside the city limits, parked his car and walked inside, the place was dark and empty, there was a smell of distant smoke and a haze that covered the room. As he made his way to the bar, he noticed a woman sitting all alone in the far corner of the room. It seemed a little strange that she would come alone at this late hour for a drink.
The man changed course and began walking towards the back corner where the woman was sitting. By the time she noticed him approaching it was too late, she was trapped. She could not get out of the booth before he got to her, but she was alone with no one to help. Can I buy you a drink the man asks? She looks down at her full glass and says, can’t you see I have plenty? I’m sorry the man says, I was actually suggesting that you buy me a drink. Who do you think you are, says the woman! I am not buying you a drink! I don’t even know you. Please leave me alone.
The man says, if you bought me a drink I would help you solve your problem. Problem? She replies… Yes, says the man, you’ve had four husbands and you are about to break up with the man your living with, that bruise on your arm is where he grabbed you when he threw you out tonight. She begins to cry. How do you know this? What am I going to do? My life is a mess and I have nowhere to go. The man says, I didn’t say this to humiliate you, but to let you know that God knows what is going on in your life and He still loves you and wants you to allow him to help you. God, she says! How could God care about me, I haven’t been to church in years. God isn’t questioning you about church, he wants you to know that you can experience Him from anywhere if you are willing to accept the truth and give His Spirit access to your life. I need something, she says. Can you help me? That is why I came in here the man says.
The Church in America is Shrinking and Most of Us Don’t Know It.
This modern day look at an old story from John 4, where Jesus meets the woman at the well is a picture of the kinds of people we pass by each and every day. We read their stories in scripture, but can we see them standing right in front of us? Last week, I met a man that attended church faithfully until he got sick a few years ago. He has since been forgotten as he has moved between care facilities and family members. He has given up on church and God for the most part. He doesn’t believe God loves Him, how could he, with all the things that have happened to him. Certainly, this is a punishment in his mind, but it’s not the end of his story.
In case you didn’t know this, 2.5 million Christians choose to stop going to church every year and 3000 churches close their doors every single year. This is not a recent trend this has been going on for years and yet most of us continue to do our thing day in and day out without realizing what is happening. As long as we have a place to go when feel like going, we are content. We are the frog sitting in the water that is now boiling. The church in America is shrinking and current estimations say that by the year 2025 only between 7% – 15% of Americans will attend church regularly. This is not a doom and gloom message, it’s quite the opposite. I believe God will do his greatest work when it looks the absolute worst. But, we will be the deciding factor, He is giving us a choice to love the unlovable and reach the hurting.
How Have We Have Become Relationship Challenged?
It’s not a question of how to reach them, the question is will we care enough to do something about it. Can we somehow turn the spotlight off of our own gratifications and needs to reaching the one that is right in front of us? That’s it. One at a time just like Jesus did with the woman at the well. People do not quit church, they give up on people. The indictment is not against the institution, it’s against the failure to build meaningful relationships within it. While we point at leaders and programs we need to ask ourselves, so what have I done in my sphere of influence that is in any way different or am I just as guilty for failing to reach the one sitting in front of me?
God Needs You!
Thankful 2Day began when God challenged us to live each day with a song in our hearts in gratitude for what He was doing and in anticipation of what He would do next. Now that I am here my heart is broken for the many I am hearing about everyday who live each moment in dread, fear and isolation from God simply because no one has helped them break through. God needs you! It’s not the institutions responsibility. It’s the churches. The building is not the church, we are.