Most Americans have a fundamental disconnect with church. According to a new study by the Barna Group, most American church-goers rarely feel a “real and personal connection with God” at worship services. And, a stunning one-third of church-goers say they’ve never connected with God during corporate worship.
Many reflecting on this study blame church-goers for this failure to connect. As one person commented at the “Out of Ur” blog, “Some people expect church to fill them up and get them dancing even though they haven’t sought after God the previous six days.” And truly, that is a problem. As my pastor once wrote, too often, people go to church to get some “emotionally-induced high” or key spiritual insight. But, church isn’t designed to give Christians a spiritual shot in the arm. It’s designed to help us practice the presence of God together so we can continue that practice throughout the week. Or, is it?
Quite frankly, I don’t think many American church services are conducive to practicing God’s presence. They’re often shows we observe, rather than a discipline in which we participate. It’s where we listen to the experts, not engage with the living God.
To be honest, I feel like I connect with God practically every Sunday – not because I’m so spiritual. I’m not. But, my church’s services are designed to facilitate connection with God. Rather than filling every second with sound, our church actually schedules silence into the program. We reflect. We confess. We hear God’s Word and submit to it. We pray. We worship. We receive communion. In short, we participate in spiritual exercises that enable us to receive from God and train us to receive from Him the rest of the week.
To me, that is church. It’s a place where we’re transformed, not merely informed. It’s where we meet with God together and learn the practices necessary to live in Christ daily. This model doesn’t necessarily attract thousands of entertainment-hungry Americans to church. But, it’s certainly a model that connects those of us who attend church with the God we worship.