Alan linked and posted about an interesting survey from Crosswalk that fits into what I just posted a yesterday about community. The survey is found in a post, Lack of Connection Biggest Reason Christians Leave Church, and tells us something very important. It turns out that people really want relationships in the church! I think the common response to that in my circles is always suspicion when you talk about what people want. Church is treated like veggies at dinner. You may not like it but you have to have some 'cause it is good for you! Likewise the gathered church is something where the pastor tells you what he thinks you need to hear for your own good. Left to their own devices, Christians will wander off into fluff so they need to be corralled.
Now that doesn't mean doctrine is unimportant. A church with great relationships but faulty doctrine is even worse than a church with the opposite problem but here is the thing. Having a church with real relationships is good doctrine! If your church gathering lacks fellowship and real relationships among believers it is necessarily faulty no matter how solid the theology might be.
A lot of people are "leaving churches" and I think much of that is because they were religious Americans, not Christians, and the societal incentive for church attendance has largely evaporated. There is a sizable population of actual Christians who are leaving and that number grows every year and I think that is attributable to what this survey shows, i.e. that people and especially Christians are desirous of real relationships, not phony smiles and suits on Sunday.
There is more to the church than weekly meetings and doctrinal lectures. There is a need for solid teaching and there is a need for regular gatherings but without relationships the church is only a shadow of what it was created to be. How do we get from mute attendance to real relationships? That is the bigger question and that is what I am working through right now.
(HT: Alan Knox)