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Following the Truth: Empty Churches Where Should We Draw The Line?
FollowingtheTruth.com ^ | May 9th, 2012 | Gary Zimak

Posted on 06/12/2012 6:03:28 PM PDT by Salvation

 

Empty Churches – Where Should We Draw The Line?

 

“Religion is popular only when it ceases to be truly religious. Religion by its very nature is unpopular – certainly unpopular with the ego.” (Archbishop Fulton J Sheen)

Recently, an interesting article was brought to my attention. Appearing in The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), the point was raised that organized religion was on the decline throughout the area. More and more, organized religion is coming under attack, as evidenced by the recent YouTube video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus”. While the idea of individuals creating their own personal version of Jesus’ teachings is nothing new, this philosophy is now creeping into organized religion. Evidence of this can be seen in a comment made by Rev. Tony Sundermeier, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Allentown (in the above article):

“We create a space for different ways for people to engage with God. I still think people are spiritual and religious. It’s just not orthodox Christianity they’re looking for.”

Reaching Out or Dumbing Down?
In an attempt to reach out and bring people back to church, some Christian churches are bending over backward to give the people what they want, rather than what they need. If the teachings of Jesus are too challenging, let’s change them so that they are more appealing. Strong evidence of this can be seen in the churches that proclaim the “health and wealth gospel”. Sometimes referred to as prosperity theology, the message is that faithful believers will be rewarded with financial wealth. While this can be an attractive message, it is certainly not the message lived and proclaimed by Jesus Christ. Additionally, some churches water down their teaching to make it more “user friendly” and appealing. In other words, let’s make going to church fun. If we take away the negativity and challenging doctrine, then people will come back in droves. Sadly, I’ve even seen this in some Catholic parishes and it is a big mistake. Christians deserve the truth and not a watered down message that “feels good”. For, although it might feel good now, a diluted set of religious doctrine isn’t going to help us get to Heaven! The question that must be asked is, although it may attract more people to church (and even this is debatable), what good does it do to remove the difficult, but necessary, aspects of Christianity?

What Does The Bible Say?
While I don’t claim to have all the answers, I do know that the Bible provides some valuable clues about truth. In his letter to Timothy, Saint Paul states that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm 2:4). That statement implies that absolute truth exists, God wants us to know that truth, and learning and obeying it will allow us to get to Heaven. Given that statement, it’s easy to see why distorting that truth could be problematic. While I understand why this is being done, what is the point of getting people in your church if you’re not going to give them the teaching that they need to one day achieve salvation?

There is no doubt that the truth will cause division, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be spoken. What does Jesus have to say about the truth?

“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Lk 12:51-53)

Furthermore, the words of Jesus as He commissioned the Apostles affirms the importance of always preaching the whole truth:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Mt 28:19-20)

Note that Jesus didn’t say to share only His pleasant and less challenging teachings…He said to teach ALL that He commanded. This includes unpopular and difficult teachings, even if they’re met with resistance. Jesus encountered this difficulty first hand when He taught about the necessity of the Eucharist for salvation. In His Bread of Life discourse (Jn 6: 22-71), when He proclaimed that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life within you” (Jn 6:53), many of His disciples said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (Jn 6:60). Instead of backing down or modifying this crucial teaching, Jesus let many of His disciples walk away from Him. (Jn 6:66). Why? Because He couldn’t compromise the truth!

A Catholic Response
As Catholics, we are blessed to have the fullness of truth and, under no circumstances, can we change the truth in order to make it more palatable. Although we should become creative and try to meet people “where they are”, the “Good News” can’t be changed. For, in doing so, we’d be hurting people rather than helping them. Although it’s a challenge, we need to educate people about Church teachings. As many of us cynics have discovered, the teachings of the Church really do make sense once they are prayerfully explored with an open mind. That’s the great thing about truth…it’s TRUE!

Isn’t This The Clergy’s Job?
As lay Catholics, what can we do to combat declining Mass attendance? Isn’t this the job of the priests and deacons? In actuality, we should all be concerned about this matter. If you think about it for a minute, it’s not easy for the clergy to reach out to those who no longer attend Mass. Furthermore, the Church teaches that evangelization is the responsibility of ALL baptized Catholics. In his apostolic letter, Porta Fidei (The Door of Faith), Pope Benedict XVI observed:

The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us.

In order to share the truth with others, the first thing we should do is learn, understand AND LIVE the teachings of the Catholic Church. Then, as charitably as possible, we should share these teachings with others. Our Church is blessed to have the fullness of truth and it would be wrong to keep this treasure to ourselves. With whom should we share? Everyone around us – our family, friends, coworkers and any others who we encounter in our daily lives.

Using The Internet
Do you spend a lot of time on the Internet? Why not use it for sharing the faith? One of the great things about the Internet and social media is the ability to reach those who no longer go to Church. Here are some simple and concrete steps that we can all take to share the truth with others:

Share good Catholic articles with others via email.

Post inspirational quotes on Facebook or Twitter.

“Like” solid Catholic fan pages, groups or posts on Facebook.

Create your own Catholic website, podcast, Facebook group or Twitter account.

Whether we do it on the Internet or face to face, we must never stop proclaiming the true teaching of the Catholic Church. In the end, that truth is what is going to save souls. Sometimes people will get offended and “walk away”, but that shouldn’t deter us from delivering the “Good News” IN FULL. It happened to the prophets, it happened to the Saints and it happened to Jesus…and that’s some good company!

“No one is truly poor but except the one who lacks the truth.” (St. Ephraem the Syrian)

 



TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; churches; religion; religiousleft; schism; secularization; trends; truth
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“No one is truly poor but except the one who lacks the truth.” (St. Ephraem the Syrian)
1 posted on 06/12/2012 6:03:38 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; ArrogantBustard; Catholicguy; RobbyS; marshmallow; ...

Catholic Ping!


2 posted on 06/12/2012 6:06:05 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation
Other thoughts from Gary Zimak.

Following the Truth: Empty Churches – Where Should We Draw The Line?
Following the Truth: Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 7 (Her Final Words) [Catholic Caucus]

Following the Truth: Recognizing Jesus In The Eucharist [Catholic Caucus]
Following the Truth: Follow Me… [into Holy Week]
Following the Truth: No Greater Love… [Catholic and Open]
Following the Truth: Don’t Just Feel Sorry For Jesus… [Catholic and Open]
Following the Truth: The Easiest Way To End Up In Hell… [Catholic and Open]
Following the Truth: Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 6 (The Wedding At Cana) [Catholic Caucus]
Following the Truth: Lent: Becoming Uncomfortable About Being Comfortable [Catholic or Open]
Following the Truth: Spiritual Exercises – Week One [of Lent] In Review
Following the Truth: Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 5 (Losing Jesus), [Catholic Caucus]
Following the Truth: Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 4 (The Magnificat) [Catholic Caucus]

Following the Truth: Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 3 (Submission) [Catholic Caucus]
Following the Truth: Listening To Mary’s Voice – Part 2 (Humility)[Catholic Caucus]
Following the Truth: Listening To Mary’s Voice: Part 1, Confusion [Catholic Caucus]
Following The Truth: 3 Suggestions For Hearing And Responding To God’s Voice [Catholic and Open]
Following The Truth: Layoffs, Death and Preparation [Catholic and Open]
Following The Truth: Contemplating Death [Catholic and Open]
Following the Truth: The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Had To Do… [Catholic and Open]
Following The Truth: The Priesthood — A Priceless Gift (Catholic and Open)
Following The Truth: Parents…Are You Doing Your Job? (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: Confession – Is It Still Necessary? (Catholic or Open)

Following The Truth: The Feast Of St. Stephen – A Case Of Bad Timing? (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers? (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: What If Mary Said “No”? (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: Jesus Is Waiting – Don’t Forget To RSVP! (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: So, You Just Received Jesus…Now What? (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: An Advent Challenge: Love Your Enemies! (Catholic and Open)
Following The Truth: The Journey To Bethlehem is Not Comfortable! (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: Does God Want Us To Worry? (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: The Morning Offering – Pray Without Ceasing! (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: A (Lenten) Advent “Weight” Loss Program (Catholic or Open)

Following The Truth: Hurry Up, Lord…I’m Waiting! (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: Evangelize? Sorry, But I’m Catholic! (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: Ten Facts Most Catholics Don’t Know (But Should!) (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: Letting Your Conscience Be Your Guide(What Jiminy Cricket Didn’t Tell You) [Catholic or Open]
Following The Truth: Catholic “Fluff” – The Enemy Within (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: Appreciating The Gift Of Suffering (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: Satan’s Attack On The Church – What You Can Do! (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: Saying “Y-E-S” to God During Lent (and Advent) [Catholic or Open]
Following the Truth: Spiritual Dryness: “I Don’t Feel Anything!” (Catholic or Open)
Following The Truth: A Biblical Roadmap To The One, True Church (Catholic or Open)

3 posted on 06/12/2012 6:08:35 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

My relatives from PA, all they talk about is the closing of a Catholic church or school all over.


4 posted on 06/12/2012 6:14:24 PM PDT by bicyclerepair ( REPLACE D-W-S ! http://www.karenforcongress.com)
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To: bicyclerepair

I think that is why the Pope sent Archbishop Charles Chaput back there.

People may think that those in the pews want entertainment, but I believe the people in the pews want to know how to keep their faith in this increasingly secular world.

Prayers for your relatives and the good Archbishop.


5 posted on 06/12/2012 6:18:19 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

First I am not Catholic.
The churches I go to are crowded, many going to multiple services.
They tend to be very basic Bible driven, lively music and powerful messages.
The messages do not worry about offending people (sometimes the Word of God offens the sinner).
Much more like what you might imagine the early Christian churches were like.
The Church is not a building or a title it is the people who belong to the Body of Christ.
I think many older groups have lost that vision.


6 posted on 06/12/2012 6:25:25 PM PDT by svcw (If one living cell on another planet is life, why isn't it life in the womb?)
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To: Salvation

“Unintended Consequences” (no offense meant to anyone, just wanting all to look at things from outside the box, for a minute)

So... Jesus returns to Earth, and walks into the nearest church.

He looks around, and smack dab in the middle is a huge cross, with his effigy hanging from it, nails through the wrists and ankles, a crown of thorns on his head, obvious puncture wounds to the chest cavity, and dripping blood.

So, he sets fire to the place and leaves, gets on his horse, takes out his sword, and heads out to destroy as many of these ‘violence worshipping’ abominations as possible.


7 posted on 06/12/2012 6:31:11 PM PDT by UCANSEE2 (Lame and ill-informed post)
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To: Salvation

“Where should we draw the line?” How about where Mason and Dixon drew it! In many cases, places where people are leaving the churches empty are places where people are leaving period. This makes sense: the liberal ideology that destroys cities is the same liberal ideology that destroys dioceses.

“Come out from among ‘em” to the South, where people have jobs and kids and trucks, and the churches are packed. Ours was put under observation by the fire department when the alarm went off during Mass one day, and the captain saw how full the place was. Now we have fire lanes marked off with tape on the floors, as well no-exception-you’ll-be-towed lanes in the parking lot.


8 posted on 06/12/2012 6:32:53 PM PDT by Tax-chick (Genetic testing of unborn babies: measuring the morality of our culture. (Wesley Smith)
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To: UCANSEE2
So, he sets fire to the place and leaves, gets on his horse, takes out his sword, and heads out to destroy as many of these ‘violence worshipping’ abominations as possible.

I'm curious as to why you think Jesus would do that. He knew how he was going to die, and didn't fight it. He even encouraged his disciple, Thomas, to put his hands in the wounds so that Thomas would believe that He had risen from the dead.

The crucifix isn't displayed to 'worship violence', it is displayed so that WE never forget WHO it was who died for our sins, and made it possible for us to attain salvation with Him. It is there to humble us, not whip us into some sort of violent frenzy. The proof of that can be seen when folks get out of Mass on Sunday. The only 'violence' you'll likely see is somebody getting cut off on the drive out of the parking lot.

9 posted on 06/12/2012 6:47:20 PM PDT by SuziQ
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To: UCANSEE2

Your feeble ruse didn’t work. Perhaps a better idea might be to comment upon the article at hand, rather than use the opportunity for referring to Catholic churches as “violence worshipping abominations.” Which you just did.


10 posted on 06/12/2012 6:49:08 PM PDT by sayuncledave (et Verbum caro factum est (And the Word was made flesh))
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To: Tax-chick

>>In many cases, places where people are leaving the churches empty are places where people are leaving period. <<

Exactly! People are crying in Detroit because they are closing and clustering parishes.

I keep trying to tell them, the entire state should be either closed or clustered.


11 posted on 06/12/2012 6:54:23 PM PDT by netmilsmom (Romney scares me. Obama is the freaking nightmare that is so bad you are afraid to go back to sleep)
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To: svcw

Likewise with my Catholic Church. We have four Masses. One Saturday evening — not so full.

Sunday monring at 8:15 and 10:30 and the Spanish Mass at 12:30 — all bursting at the seams.

Powerful messages based on the Bible is what we get. And the numbers prove it.

In fact our Capital Campaign to build a new Church has not been going on that long, and we have alomost reached the point when we can obtain a loan from the Archdiocese and start the building — I think their goal is the first part of October.

The present building will be turned into classrooms or completely re-designed.


12 posted on 06/12/2012 6:54:49 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: UCANSEE2

**So, he sets fire to the place and leaves, gets on his horse, takes out his sword, and heads out to destroy as many of these ‘violence worshipping’ abominations as possible.**

This is very strange. Care to explain further? Why would this happen?


13 posted on 06/12/2012 6:57:06 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: UCANSEE2

On earth Christ is perfect mercy.

At the moment of our death, Christ is perfect justice.

Something to ponder.


14 posted on 06/12/2012 6:58:17 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: SuziQ

Deu 5:8 Thou shalt not make thee [any] graven image, [or] any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the waters beneath the earth:

Does Jesus not reside in Heaven?


15 posted on 06/12/2012 7:09:00 PM PDT by itsahoot (I will not vote for Romney period.)
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To: Salvation
Powerful messages based on the Bible

These churches do not lack for full pews.

16 posted on 06/12/2012 7:36:06 PM PDT by svcw (If one living cell on another planet is life, why isn't it life in the womb?)
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To: Salvation

I disagree with Sheen, here. The “organized religions” losing members, at least among Protestants, are the loosy goosey liberals. I hope they go totally empty unless they get back to the Bible.

“Organized religions” that are Christian conservatives are growing by and large.


17 posted on 06/12/2012 7:37:48 PM PDT by Persevero (Homeschooling for Excellence since 1992)
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To: UCANSEE2

“So, he sets fire to the place and leaves, gets on his horse, takes out his sword, and heads out to destroy as many of these ‘violence worshipping’ abominations as possible.

I am not a defender of the use of crucifixes, but I don’t think it is a worship of violence. Jesus did indeed die a violent and hideous death for us, truly suffering throughout. The crucifix is an attempt to remember and honor that.

However, one problem with it (from my point of view) is that it focuses the believer on the death and not the resurrection.


18 posted on 06/12/2012 7:40:32 PM PDT by Persevero (Homeschooling for Excellence since 1992)
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To: itsahoot

To your question: ““Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Mt 28:19-20)”

It says “I am with you always” So I guess the three persons in one (Father/Son/Holy Spirit) can both be in heaven and with us all the time. I think God can do things like that because he made the rules, spoke the Word to bring all about and Made Man from the Earth.


19 posted on 06/12/2012 7:44:14 PM PDT by jafojeffsurf (Return to the Constitution)
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To: itsahoot
Well graven images are a bad thing, if you worship the statue, and forget about who it is supposed to represent. We don't do that.

Remember, even Moses and Aaron had 'images' in the form of the Ark of the Covenant, and used it in their worship, all apparently approved by God, who told them how to build it.

Jesus is the new 'Ark', and we have statues and paintings to remind us of him. We know those images are not Him, but we use them in our worship, just as Moses and the Hebrew people used the Ark of the Covenant in theirs.

20 posted on 06/12/2012 8:03:53 PM PDT by SuziQ
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