Kelly Bean has authored a very thought provoking book called How to Be a Christian Without Going to Church: The Unofficial Guide to Alternative Forms of Christian Community
Now I personally have heard people make comments about how it is not necessary to go to church in order for them to still have a vital and growing spiritual life. So the title of this book certainly caught my attention.
I realize that there is a strong pull sometimes to just stay at home on Sunday rather than getting up and out to gather at church. Bean makes an opening statement that goes like this, “Here I am on a bright Sunday morning curled up in my cushy orange chair, sipping tea, and loving Jesus…” I often wonder about why some in society forsake the clear directives in the Word to not forsake coming together as believers. Is it a reaction to something that has happened to them in the church? Is it a mere rationalization of their personal desires? Is it a developing cultural trend that is being embraced?
Bean tries to show that there is a steady decline taking place in church attendance and that some people are opting for other outlets for their spiritual growth and life. She quotes a study from Ed Stetzer in which his research “found that 24.5% of Americans now say their primary form of spiritual nourishment is meeting with a small group of 20 or less people each week.” He also states that 6,000,000 people in the US attend a small group “and never or rarely go to church…”
Now this is intriguing to me partly because my church functions through small groups as well. I have not done any research at the local church level to see the percentage of small group goers compared to church service goers on Sunday. The 24.5% statistic is also unclear in what the findings mean. I can see the possibility that people surveyed could say that the small group ministers to them more effectively than the Sunday worship service. That could be the result of personal preference, small group dynamics, material being discussed in the small group may be more targeted to their present needs and many other possibilities. To me, the finding is too vague.
But what these findings do cause me to think about is how should the church respond if there is a developing trend away from the traditional corporate worship service. I am just beginning the reading of Bean’s book so I’ll be posting more thoughts on the implications of her findings. Share in the comment section some of your initial thoughts.