As November 4 approaches, US voters by the millions are casting ballots ahead of the traditional election day. Estimates place early/absentee voting at 30% or more of the total vote this year. Voters are increasingly choosing to vote on their own schedules rather than on the one day traditionally reserved for a national election. There’s a lesson here for churches, too.
I am convinced that the continuing decline in church attendance in the US is not because the majority of the US population does not believe in God. Polls consistently indicate that America is one of the most religious countries in the world. My conviction is that declining church attendance has to do with two things — relevance and convenience. Much of what we do in church gatherings is viewed as not relevant to people’s lives, and therefore they see no need to spend a Sunday morning sitting through a less-than inspiring hour. Voting patterns have nothing to teach us about relevance, that’s another issue for another post. But, voting patterns can tell us something about convenience.
Voters, and these are all Americans from every walk of life, are telling political observers that they want to vote at the time and place of their choosing. Translation: churches can provide more opportunities, in both time and place, for people to “do church.” My guess is that doing church is going to look much different in the next 25-years than it does now. Church gatherings will be more interactive and participatory, and less passive observation. And, in using the term “church gathering” I am purposely avoiding the use of “worship” or “service” because I think church gatherings will be entirely different in the future from church worship services now.
My vision sees churches as ministry hubs with persons engaged in helping ministries on a weekly basis. Worship will shift to big days, much like the great feasts and festivals of Jewish life. Smaller, decentralized gatherings in homes and communities will fill-in for “worship” experiences between the greater festival-type gatherings. Voters are telling us something this year. What do you think we’ll learn?