Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Why do I go to church?

Why do I go to church? This question is asked by Wes at his Blog, The WB with the entry Meet My Needs. What he writes gave me pause to think, so I will pass it along for your thoughts:
I just finished reading a fascinating article by Elizabeth Steele in the Alban Institute Magazine called, "How Responding to People's needs hurts the Church." Pretty bold title, but I believe that this is the difficult place the church finds herself in right now.

As a marketplace mentality has firmly rooted itself in the church culture—we create programs to respond to expressed and felt needs—we are seeing less people committed to the church as a means of being a witness, and more people pounding on the door asking to be fed (both physically, emotionally and spiritually).

For me, the question comes back to—does Jesus meet the needs of the people he encounters?

We can point to Christ healing the sick, comforting the widows, bringing the social outcasts into relationship and community. Here it does seem as though Christ's main focus was on meeting and responding to the particular needs of individuals.

But, this article makes an interesting point: "What occurs when [congregants] do not get what they want? They believe the church is letting them down..."

Going back to Jesus' example...what about the sick people whom Jesus did not heal, or the fact that he says "the poor will always be among you," calling us to "deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him." Is he failing in his mission? Is he letting people down? No and Yes. He is not failing in his mission because his mission is not to respond to people's needs and wants. Yet he may have been letting people down in the process.

Therefore, the church needs to revaluate her mission: not in seminary, not in the ministerial offices, or in committee's...but from the ground-up through a self-reflective question, "Why do I go to church?"
I'm a bit torn as I think we should meet people where they are. I do also think a consumer mindset as concerns church is not healthy. Hmm... I go to church to worship God and to nourish my faith, to learn and grow with others. Yes, I'm paid to be there, but I could be paid to do a lot of things. I go because God will be there and we'll all be there and it will be awesome. What do you think about all of the above?

Though as an aside, The Washington Post carried an article that says that for Roman Catholics, the answer probably isn't that you go for the music. That article is Between Medieval And Folk, Two Mass Audiences.

The rev. Frank Logue, Pastor



  • At 4/22/2008 8:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have a difficult time relating to those who have stopped or who don't go to church and say as their excuse, "I don't get anything out of it."

    How could one NOT get anything out of worshipping God and receiving the Holy Spirit?

    I guess that maybe going to church is like any relationship. At first it's new, exciting and stimulating. Then, after awhile, we become comfortable, so we think that we're bored or don't feel anything anymore. Like with any relationship worth having, there is work and compromise involved. We only get out of it what we put into it.

    The mindset of "I'm not getting anything out of it so I'm not going to contribute to it" won't work with any relationship.

    I do, however, agree that churches need to market themselves in order to get the "what's in it for me?" generation through the doors. But, once they're through those doors they need to learn that the whole church experience is more than just them and their desire to be "entertained" at church.

  • At 4/22/2008 9:41 PM, Blogger TLF+ said…

    I've seen some evidence that the "felt needs" approach only works with Baby Boomers (although I meet plenty of old "Greatest Generation" types who speak a similar language - the church is there for what it does for them).

    The younger folks are more interested in a sincere community, where relationships are supportive and people live in ways that really reflect the beliefs being preached.

    And there is renewed hunger for experience of God through liturgy, and by acts of service that really impact the world for Christ.

    Thanks for raising this issue. Good post and good thoughts.

  • At 4/22/2008 10:54 PM, Blogger November In My Soul said…

    I go to church, or rather assemble with other believers, to worship God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As you know Father, I went through the struggle of deciding how much to accomodate people to get them to come to church. In the end it was self destructive behavior. There was no clear message and eventually there was no true worship.

    The Church is not about the right song, about a big enough building or about programs to attract new blood. The Church is us gathering together to share the Eucharist, to join in the never ending chorus of praise. We must work to conform ourselves to the Church because therein is the Truth, the Way and the Light.

  • At 4/23/2008 1:58 AM, Blogger Tom Sramek, Jr. said…

    There was a famous comment by Bill Hybels (I don't know where I read it, but...) to the effect that Willow Creek had made a huge, multi-million dollar mistake in simply meeting people's needs without helping them to establish habits of discipleship.

    Perhaps that is the difference. To use the old phrase--the church is called not simply to feed people fish, but to train fishermen! When Jesus refused to heal folks or to spend time in an area, it was generally because he had to spend time with his disciples.

    Even Rick Warren begins The Purpose Driven Life with the words "It's not about you." He's done pretty well...

  • At 4/23/2008 7:14 AM, Blogger King of Peace said…

    The Hybels quote in context is here: We made a mistake though the gist of what he said was they should have taught people, "how to read their Bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own."


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