For many people, church is a dead place. In their minds, church is the place where people shuffle into every Sunday and put their minds on hold for a few hours. They turn on this thing called ‘faith.’ Once the service is over, they flick the switch and they are back in ‘reality mode.’ If you don’t agree with this, you only need to look at declining church attendance figures to fully realize the accuracy of the statement above. For the most part, and for most denominations, church is dead. Not far from the angry denunciations Christ had for Pharisees who he called ‘white-washed tombs.’ That’s the bad news. Now for the good news. There is a flipside to all the bad news of declining attendance numbers. As the old saying goes: fewer, but better. Sure, the perceived increasingly irrelevant church may have lost many people who were on the fence or lukewarm ‘believers’ in the first place, but it has also galvanized those who believe. Those who claim to be truly converted. Call them ‘true believers’ if you want but there is something reassuring in the fact that many denominations have stepped up living out their faith. Far from a once a week exercise in spiritual entertainment, many churches are actually rolling their sleeves up and feeding the poor, visiting prisoners, ministering to the sick, and taking care of widows. In other words, many churches are rediscovering Christ’s teaching that faith, real live faith, is one that produces action.
The social benefits of an active church
Far from being bored in the pews, many active evangelical churches enable their members to live out their faith by going to places in the world where children are dying and where people live in bone-grinding poverty. Just like in a fraternity or in an Army unit, people bond on a deep personal level when they face challenges together. I don’t know about you but feeding babies suffering from cholera definitely counts as a shared challenge. Mission work makes for life-long bonds that go beyond one’s social life. Closer to home, soup kitchen work helps volunteers bond. An active church redefines ‘social life’ to mean something other than ‘what is in it for me?’ or ‘how does this benefit me?’ By doing so it just reaffirms the Bible: what good does it do for a man to gain the world when he ends up losing his soul? Maybe by losing ourselves serving others we gain ourselves and we gain deeper social connections. I even learned how to lose weight from a fellow church visitor when working out with him after church activities.