The decline of church attendance within recent years may have been prompted by the growing frustration within the church body concerning leadership marred by growing numbers of scandals and churches more concerned with entertaining those in the pews than feeding them spiritually.
Emily Michaels is completing her graduate studies at New York Theological Seminary in New York City. When questioned about her opinion concerning the path of the Christian church, she gave a surprising answer. "I really would like to see the church operate in the days of my grandmother. The church has become such a show these days. It operates just as a play on Broadway. You have your production team, singers, musicians, dancers, skits and VP sections. Everything has to happen at a certain time. We give so much time to all of these things but only allow five minutes for the Holy Spirit to appear. What happened to just plain church?"
Cynthia Hartgrove, a Christian who attends a megachurch in New Jersey, shares her sentiment. "I have stopped attending church for that very reason. If I want to be entertained, I can go to a movie. I am not saying that singing and dancing are not permitted but when the choirs perform for the cameras, I have a problem. It takes a lot to get out of bed when your heart is heavy to attend church only to be disappointed because you received nothing in the process."
Some Christians are also concerned that the Christian body is seen as judgmental rather than loving. "We have become so judgmental and stringent in our thinking," says Hartgrove. "We have created an image of God that has him waiting for us to do something wrong so He can zap us where we stand. That is little preaching or collective thought surrounding God' love."
With the rise of atheistic churches and organizations that challenge the authenticity of the Christian message, some Christians believe that they cannot fight this battle because the church is not right within itself.
"There is definitely a great falling away. The world is dealing with so many tough issues right now that this is not the time for the church to not fulfill its purpose," says Michaels. "Young people who have grown up in the church with a grandparent or elder know what church is all about. I am not so sure that this new church is what will sustain us in our lives."
Hartgrove says that church is no longer a place where she can refresh her soul in times of hardship. "So many people are hurting. They come to church to be restored and comforted. Many of us are in financial crisis and dealing with severe issues in our lives. The church no longer serves as a place of refuge but a place of hardship. It feels like there is no spiritual relief.".
Mark Rogers is elder at his church in Philadelphia. He has been saved since the age of five. He is now 72. He has seen the church experience a drastic transformation that he is not sure will be able to measure up to this new wave of free thought thinking. He believes that the church body has sacrificed the gospel for worldly acceptance.
"The Bible says to be of the world, not in the world. In our quest to change with the times, we have let go of traditions and basic teachings to fit what is popular," said Rogers. "We went from congregations of 300 to 30,000. The church has become a business. What is lacking is the pure gospel and the experience of intimacy with the Lord. This is what we are craving, intimacy with God."