Some people are wired to attend church as we know it. Others (most people) are not.
I’ve been describing characteristics that are found in those who attend weekly worship services. These descriptors all begin with the letter A. Today we look at the next one–Academic.
Those in the pews today see the church’s role as primarily academic. They come once a week to obtain information or knowledge about the Bible or God. They expect to hear an authority teach theological principles and historical data. “Teaching pastors,” as they’re sometimes called, often employ techniques borrowed from 20thCentury school rooms. Among these are PowerPoint presentations and “sermon notes” or “fill-ins”—fill-in-the-blank exercises printed in the worship bulletin, encouraging the listeners to write down certain words from the sermon.
It’s likely that most preachers personally appreciate and prefer academic approaches. Studies show they self-identify their leading strength is “teaching.”
But what about the majority of society? We live in an information-soaked world. When it comes to spiritual things, most people don’t sense they’re lacking hard data. They’re lacking the soft stuff of the soul. Their desired relationship with God seems more at home at Starbucks than a college lecture hall. Like any relationship, they sense growth in a relationship with God comes more from give-and-take than passive consumption of someone’s lecture.
Many within the current church treat faith itself as an academic subject. It is something that is pursued through teaching and the accumulation of theological knowledge.
But most people don’t view faith as academic. Faith is actually a relationship–not a subject. So, church envoronments that seem more like academic lecture halls don’t make sense to them.
How can a church promote faith in a way that works more like a relationship?