Why Don’t We Connect With God At Church?

By Julie Roys
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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.


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1 thought on “Why Don’t We Connect With God At Church?”

  1. Received this via email from a Moody Radio listener. She gave me permission to post anonymously.

    Oh Julie:
    I just read your article/Moody Radio reading of it. .Why Don’t We Connect With God At Church? It resounded so much with my heart. We must be near the same age. ;) I am not elderly by any stretch of the imagination ( am early 50’s), but I do remember attending, from 1970’s -1980’s, Lake Ave. Congregational Church in So. Calif. pastored by Raymond C. Ortlund and the worship was WORSHIPFUL–GOD centered!

    Just like you said, “Quiet!” The service started with quiet time for preparing one’s heart for meeting with God and hearing from His Word, and softening one’s heart to desire to apply it that week.
    There was substance from dynamic, deep soul and lifestyle searching sermons (of sometimes unpleasant –“how dare they make us uncomfortable!”– challenges to discipleship) and sound theology vs. politics or psychology taught. . . .

    Even in heaven (book of Revelation) there are periods of pregnant, meaningful silence–times of waiting upon God’s next word or move. Even so I remember in church periods of quiet to confess sins and to pray about how we will apply the sermon.

    This church must have done something right, because it churned out a massive number of Christian leaders, pastors and missionaries all over the country and the world during thosed decades of the “50’s through the “80’s.who trace their roots to being discipled at Lake Ave. Congr. Church….Nancy Leigh DeMoss being only one of them.

    So we are offered loud, boisterous, heart -tressing bass drum and bass guitar noise which is all unduly amplified and entertainment -focused, with the required singing of the chorus 6 times in a row until everyone is mezmerized (or, oppositely, is in an emotional frenzy). These are standardly substituted for intimacy in spirit and soul with God. That is the scenario in the majority of the churches here. I noticed it is standard in So. Calif. now to when I visit back there. Sigh.

    For 4 months I visited other evangelical churches of theologically sound but insipid sermons where the congregation barely filled the pews. But my sole reason was to hear the hymns and soothing scripturally sound choruses from up until the the 1990’s. I want to never ever forget the tunes and WORDS of the suffering saints who lpenned these words because they themselves learned profound lessons in the hardest of ways. They acquired nearness to God not from emotional mesmerization, but from crying out to God in the most difficult of trials, and experiencing facets of God’s character Himself–as well as finding God faithful. . . .

    Therefore,I listen to ErwinLutzer’s Moody Church service on the radio on Sundays to hear a respectful, awe-inspiring service in the VERY same format as that of Lake Avenue Congregational Church in the 1950’s through 1980’s. Oh for Heaven, Lord Jesus, where we will “do it”, worship that is, “right.”….Sigh again.

    Such refreshment your words were to my very SOUL, Julie,–and a reality check! I needed to hear what you voiced in order to no longer (for the past 15 years) feel like I was not merely being old fashioned, but old intolerant, and an enemy of getting crowds in the door. In the 1990’s a church supposedly just could not operate without a theartre-like ambience so every “up-to-date” church had to use tithing money not for missions overseas or even the local poor and hungry, but for a movie screen, the latest projectors to show DVD clips of the” latest R movies ,and to purchase surround sound” equipment. That must please heaven. :0

    . . .

    So again my thanks to you for braving the Christian culture and risking what you did.

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