For generations, churches were the center of community life in many towns.
Want to know what time it is? Listen for the chimes from the Lutheran church steeple.
Going to the store? Turn left at the Baptist church.
Bored on a Sunday night? Check out the revival at the Pentecostal chapel.
Today, all of that and more can be done with apps on your phone. We no longer need the church for directions, time or to relieve boredom.
In fact, the idea of going to the church for any of those things is so far in the past that most people reading this have no more than a vague recollection of those times, if at all.
(UPDATE: This article was written and published in 2019. I've been culling some old blog posts for a new project, and I keep running across articles that could have been written for our current situation during the COVID19 lockdown of 2020. This is one of them.)
Why People Don’t Go To Church
When long-term churchgoers try to imagine why people don’t go to church, they assume it must be some combination of sin, disobedience or rebellion.
They imagine unchurched people thinking about God and the church, then consciously choosing to say “no” to it.
The reality is that most people who don’t go to church haven’t chosen against it, they’re not thinking about it at all.
It’s not rebellion, it’s apathy and ignorance.
It used to be that you couldn’t ignore the local church and its effects on the community. Now, most people can drive by multiple church buildings every day and not have them register in their consciousness at all.
So, what should we in the church do about that?
What We Don’t Need Churches For
If churches are going to be effective in the future, we need to ask and answer the question in the title:
“What does your church do that your phone can’t do?”
Great sermons? Nope. Those are live streamed and on podcasts.
Worship music. Sorry. Spotify, SiriusXM and YouTube have every type of worship music you can imagine. And some you can’t.
Bible study? Nuh uh. There’s an app for that. Several, actually.
So what’s left?
If your church hasn’t figured that out, you need to. Fast.
What Only The Church Can Do
There’s always been one thing the church can do that nothing else can ever duplicate:
An IRL (in real life) experience that cannot be fully realized online. The opportunity to be in the same room, worshiping Jesus, loving each other and learning to work together.