Tuesday, May 23, 2006

CrossTies Devotional Article For May 21, 2006

A Church For Unbelievers
By Bill Denton

Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble.
     (Proverbs 25:19, NASB95)

     The San Jose Mercury News once reported  the following item:
James Kelley of Washington, D.C., is one of a small group at his local church who are enthusiastic Episcopalians, but who do not believe in God. Said Kelley, "We all love the incense, the stained-glass windows, the organ music, the vestments and all of that. It's drama. It's aesthetics. It's the ritual. That's neat stuff. I don't want to give all that up just because I don't believe in God."   --  Derek Helt, "Go With the Flow," SermonNotes.com

One of the most popular forms of ‘church membership’ is identified by the term “adherents.”  It’s a word used to refer to people who attend, but don’t belong.  In collecting church statistics, it is often included as a separate category of attendance.  In other words, a church would record that it had a total attendance of, say, 100.  Of that number 50 were members, 25 were visitors, and 25 were “adherents.”  Depending on how it’s used, that number might include unbaptized children, spouses of members who attend regularly, and others who attend regularly, but who are not recognized as full members of a congregation.  There are lots of reasons for people choosing to belong to this category, and most are beyond the point of this article.

However, I wonder if the problem identified in the illustration above is more frequent than we might think.  It surprises me that someone would love the ceremony, the aesthetics, and the trappings of “religion” but not subscribe to the religion itself.  At least it surprises me that people would reject belief in God, but be drawn to the things that are designed to draw people to Him.

I must confess, however, that over the years I have known quite a number of people who behaved in a similar fashion.  They attended church services frequently.  They took part in activities, enjoyed singing of songs, and somehow found comfort and encouragement from the whole of the worship experience.  But, they were not believers.

There is a surprising disconnect between what people enjoy as a religious experience, and what people believe.  The one does not necessarily produce the other.  Though surprising, it does help explain why there seems to be so much practical uninvolvement in the real teachings of the Christian faith.

A deep, serious look at the teachings of Christ, and the inspired writers of the New Testament, for example, is not necessarily what church attenders are after.  Too often, attenders are after an enjoyable experience that feeds their need for art, beauty, symmetry, drama, etc., but they are not ready to subscribe to the life-changing beliefs that produce those things.  It’s the man who likes preaching, but not sermons.  Unbelievers remain bereft of the real benefits of faith, without confidence in time of trouble.  Make sure you are after the substance, not just the symbolism.

© Copyright  2006, Dr. Bill DentonAll Rights Reserved.Articles may not be reprinted in any "for profit" publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles. Articles are sent originally to subscribers only. You may have received a forwarded or reprinted copy.   http://www.crossties.org
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