Another study that’s out recently is Willow Creek’s Reveal: a spiritual growth conversation. In order to really get into the details, you need to read the study, but you can download key findings at the website (as you can in the link for UnChristian if you give them you email). The people who did the Reveal study thought that they would find a direct connection or link between peoples spiritual growth and their involvement in church activities. You know, you get involved in church, in bible studies, in small groups, in worship, in service and you grow, right? What they found, instead, was that an increase in church involvement did not necessarily result in an increase in love for God and love for others or spiritual transformation. In fact, they found that a significant number of heavily involved people were both spiritually stalled personally as well as dissatisfied with the church in terms of their spiritual growth and faith development. The interesting thing to note is that those people remain committed and involved for an extended period of time, even in the midst of their stalled spirituality and dissatisfaction with the church. Is it Christian guilt, duty, or something else that drives that? Or is it just faithfulness? In any case, isn’t it interesting that those who are deeply connected to the church and deeply immersed in her culture, including giving and receiving from her are often spiritually stalled and dissatisfied. Also, those who are outsiders (see previous post on the UnChristian) are more skeptical and critical of the church and Christians than ever.
Is it crazy to conclude that a) either the church is missing something huge or b) Christianity doesn’t work? I’m not willing to move to b), but I know a lot of people who have walked away from the church because they have. They say they can’t find Jesus in the church anymore… or he can’t find them. They find that the promises fall empty, and the “marketing” rings hollow when the “product” the church is selling doesn’t live up to its ad campaign.
I remember hearing Donald Miller say it this way (which really messed me up when I heard it), “Either Jesus is a bad product that doesn’t work, or we’re using a whole system that doesn’t work.” [Catalyst, 2007] Though I’m not a fan of John Shelby Spong, I’ve always love the title of his book, Why Christianity Must Change or Die. Though I think he’s wrong in a much of his theology and his prescriptions, the title is right.
These are the things that keep me up at night. How about you?
PS - If you’re interested in small groups ministry, there are some specific study results around small groups.
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