Why do the COG numbers seem to be dwindling yet there are megachurches that seem to be doing just fine? What are the types of things that turn people off?
I must be about the last person to get the Journal. COG Writer Robert Thiel had a report about the latest edition probably 2 weeks ago.
At any rate, it ran a commentary by Wesley White about “A complaint is a gift that’s worth a lot”. In it, he asks why worldly churches seem to be so much better at growth than the COGs. He acknowledged what I like to call the “easy grace” doctrines that attract people who don’t want to have to work for salvation. However, he then points to the Mormons as an example of a growing religion that actually isn’t the easiest lifestyle around today. His point is that they understand “customer service” and the COGs do not.
Now, you might be bristling at the notion of “customer service”, but I have to admit that it was a clever attention getter. His point was about how a business, if it wants to stay in business, goes about handling customer complaints. He then lists all of the reasons that many churches may have for not listening to member complaints. A lot of church leaders grew up in an era where customer services was not deemed very important, and a lot of church leaders do not like to change. As a result, many COGs are not set up to handle legitimate problems and concerns that members have.
There is a website for “de-converts” from mainstream Christianity. They have a list of “Inconvenient categories: The real reasons de-cons leave the faith”.
A lot of these aren’t surprising: “Prayers are NOT answered” (emphasis theirs), “Eternal punishment for wrongs committed in a mortal lifetime, or for failure to figure out which religion to follow, is in no way just or moral”, and “The core of Christianity is a rejection of the Jewish tradition, not the fulfillment that it declares to be, and the history of this Christian religion has only proved to be an overtly anti-semitic one.”
There are others on the list that make me scratch my head. I cannot help but wonder what some churches must be teaching their followers!
There are a couple which should sting, though.
1. “Christians are NOT different from non-Christians” (emphasis theirs). When you think about how some of the COGs have treated their members (“customer service”), and how some are doing so today, can you truly say it is God’s Spirit at work? That it is evidence of “servant leadership”? That it is evidence of godliness?
2. “Church disunity.” If that does not apply to the COG movement as a whole, then I don’t know what to tell you. Let me just bluntly ask: Do you think all of the divisions are caused by God or by human nature?
Confusion Within the COG
This last item should not be underrated. In my dealings with atheists, a question often comes up, “Even if I wanted to believe, which one would I believe?”
Indeed, as a person who went out on their own and came back into the Church, I can attest to the fact that I set it aside for a full year because I had no idea where to begin to look. I expected to find a unified organization, but instead I found a mass of confusion of 300+ “splits”.
I do not expect people to rollover and play dead on important issues by any means. However, it really comes down to the question, “What are the essentials – as defined by the Bible?” Is what you are contending for worth the disunity? Are you reaching out your hand of fellowship to others of similar beliefs, or are you using your hand to slap them down?
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
~ Ps 133:1
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
~ Ep 4:1-6