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

Now that's just plain silly. I can not think about the crucifixion without simultaneously thinking about the resurrection. How could it be any different for any Christian who knows the story?

21 posted on 06/12/2012 8:08:23 PM PDT by steve86 (Acerbic by nature not nurture TM)
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To: Tax-chick

The suburban churches where I live are always full. However, the churches in the downtown area of the city where I grew up are having trouble with attendance because the parishes where they are located don’t have many people living there anymore. Some churches have closed or merged with other parish churches. I believe it has a lot to do with the location of the churches.


22 posted on 06/12/2012 8:15:04 PM PDT by murron (Proud Mom of a Marine Vet)
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To: Persevero

There are some churches that have the crucifix as well as the Risen Christ statue nearby.


23 posted on 06/12/2012 8:18:51 PM PDT by murron (Proud Mom of a Marine Vet)
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To: steve86

“Now that’s just plain silly. I can not think about the crucifixion without simultaneously thinking about the resurrection. How could it be any different for any Christian who knows the story? “

Perhaps you link the two automatically, but I don’t know that this is true of all.

If a simple cross was posted up, (He is risen!), would you start thinking about the crucifixion? I don’t know.

But I don’t think my observation is “silly,” even if I may be wrong, perhaps you can take it as food for thought.


24 posted on 06/12/2012 8:20:30 PM PDT by Persevero (Homeschooling for Excellence since 1992)
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To: murron

In most cities, “downtown,” or as we call it in Charlotte, “uptown,” is not where a lot of people live. Uptown Catholic churches in Charlotte have good congregations if they are heavily into traditional liturgy and devotions, not because there’s a local congregation on the ground. This is Billy Graham country - we don’t have a lot of center-city Catholic Churches from the old days, like they do Up North.

We have big congregrations in all our churches in the Charlotte area, though. My parish is over 1/4 Spanish-speaking, but we’re also SRO at the English Masses. Parishes in the main residential areas of Charlotte, especially those with notably orthodox priests and liturgies leaning traditional, are also packed. We have a Vietnamese parish, a Filipino-majority parish, and more than one that are majority Spanish-speaking. Our problem is expanding the facilities (past the zoning boards and the EPA ... my parish is having to move because of an endangered freshwater clam!!!).


25 posted on 06/12/2012 8:44:34 PM PDT by Tax-chick (Genetic testing of unborn babies: measuring the morality of our culture. (Wesley Smith)
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To: netmilsmom

Last one to leave Michigan, please turn out the lights. You’d be welcome in Charlotte - there’s even a regular Polish Mass, held at the diocesan high school chapel, and “specials” at St. Matt’s, which has more congregants than some cities I’ve lived in.


26 posted on 06/12/2012 8:47:57 PM PDT by Tax-chick (Genetic testing of unborn babies: measuring the morality of our culture. (Wesley Smith)
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To: Persevero

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

Excellent post however don’t forget that St. Paul wrote, “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: “.

A crucifix is a sermon in material substance.


27 posted on 06/12/2012 9:43:43 PM PDT by arielguard (Fasting without prayer is vainglory.)
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To: svcw
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.

I agree. The early assemblies consisted of people who were believers and they came together to worship, to pray together, to share what they had with the needy, fellowship, encourage and break bread together in the remembrance that they made up the "body of Christ". These believers went out and lead other people to saving faith in Christ and brought them to the assembly so they could, in turn, grow in their faith together and learn how to lead more people to Christ. I think too many church people forget that it is their job, and not just the pastor and elders, to go out and speak the gospel to everyone they meet. Today, people invite their neighbors and friends to "church" hoping they will get saved and, though that certainly does happen, it works far better if the visitor already knows the gospel.

I've been to some churches where all they ever preach about is the gospel, as if they think nobody is saved yet or nothing else is important. They give an "invitation" at the end and nobody comes forward because everyone there is already a believer. That says to me that the pastor may be lazy or doesn't care that the believers need more than just the "milk" of the word - they need the "meat", too. I know it must be hard being a pastor, one I had (one of the BEST) had a full time job in addition to being pastor. But I think a man of God that is put there by God has an obligation to be sensitive to the needs of his congregation and to never be afraid to say what God is leading him to say after much prayer and study. When that man is saying what God is leading him to say, the people WILL hear it and receive it because God has been preparing them as well. THAT kind of church is what keeps on growing.

28 posted on 06/12/2012 10:05:08 PM PDT by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.)
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To: arielguard

True; we must remember the crucifixion AND the resurrection, not to make one more important than the other.


29 posted on 06/12/2012 10:07:01 PM PDT by Persevero (Homeschooling for Excellence since 1992)
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To: boatbums
I agree. People are going to church to BE served instead of going TO serve. Even Bible believing born again Christians grow lazy.
30 posted on 06/12/2012 10:09:41 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: netmilsmom
Detroitistan? Dearbornistan? Most of these northern cities are being overtaken by Muslim immigrants and the churches converted to mosques. I'd be getting out, too, if I was there!
31 posted on 06/12/2012 10:10:09 PM PDT by boatbums (God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.)
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To: Tax-chick

I would love it.
As long as Dad has a job, we are here.

We might be turning the lights out....


32 posted on 06/13/2012 3:29:25 AM 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; Salvation; Tax-chick

I am Catholic
The Parish I go to is crowded, many going to daily Mass. (there’s two every day and six on the weekends)
They masses are Bible driven, with Holy music and powerful messages.
Our Priests don’t worry about offending people (we even had one tell us that if we didn’t stand up for Christ, we would be saying “Allah Akbar”)
Thank God we don’t have to worry about what the early Church did, but with Slovak priests, they know the evils of communism and teach us to appreciate our freedoms.

Our parish is bursting. We just bought another building after completing our last expansion only 4 years ago. You’re right svcw, the church is not a building, and it takes the congregation hearing the truth of sin to know that there is redemption. It’s not a party and it’s not all Social Justice, which is the focus in many churches today. What can I do for someone to make me feel better instead of what can I do to make myself right with Our Lord. The collective salvation churches of any stripe are bad news. In many churches and parishes, that is what they are teaching.


33 posted on 06/13/2012 3:44:02 AM 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: boatbums

>>Most of these northern cities are being overtaken by Muslim immigrants and the churches converted to mosques.<<

I’m north of Detroit and FAR north of Dearborn.
We are surrounded by Chaldeans. I really don’t know of any Catholic Churches converted to Mosques in my area.


34 posted on 06/13/2012 3:50:20 AM 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: Salvation

Thank you, my FRiend. You are most certainly one who spends a lot of time and effort spreading the Word. God bless you.

I just LOVE that quote from Archbishop Sheen.


35 posted on 06/13/2012 5:05:41 AM PDT by Bigg Red (Pray for our republic.)
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To: Salvation

The political chant of fallen Christians, New Agers and anti-Christian activists is that Christians are spiritual and not religious. It’s a slogan.

This is intended to separate Christians from congregational communities so they are isolated and weak, morally, politically and socially. Young people are falling for it and it provides the popular justification of superiority for the open-minded and evolved spiritual ones who have dropped out of church compared to their ‘religious’ inferiors who go to church.

If liberals can get Christians to stop passing on the religion to their children by denying them a structured method of teaching young Christians their religion within churches, they can make the US majority atheist and subject to amorlity for lack of knowledge and understanding. Christians won’t follow when there is no leader.


36 posted on 06/13/2012 6:54:09 AM PDT by SaraJohnson
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To: netmilsmom

Nice. Churches who preach basic Biblical concepts are not empty.


37 posted on 06/13/2012 7:23:36 AM 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: UCANSEE2

Funny; I sniff a little violence worship in your post.


38 posted on 06/13/2012 8:02:57 AM PDT by Romulus (The Traditional Latin Mass is the real Youth Mass)
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To: SuziQ; UCANSEE2; itsahoot

“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.”

The ark was kept closed off in the holy of holies of the Tabernacle so that only a blood sprinkled priest could approach it...it wasn’t kept in public view as a “reminder”. The only reminder the Hebrews had was the daily ministration of manna until the day they entered into the Holy Land. Then the manna ceased as the final reminder of God’s power was the Land they were in possession of as he had promised! Later on one of the future leaders of Israel had the Serpent’s rod, that Moses used to save a rebellious people from the bites of poisonous serpents, destroyed so that the people wouldn’t worship it. Moses himself was buried by God(probably via Michael the ark angel as the NT hints in a brief comment regarding Michael’s dispute with Satan over Moses’ body) in a place that “no man ‘til this day’ knew of” because he knew that Israel would venerate and worship Moses’ bones.

I think I get UCANNSEE’s point!


39 posted on 06/13/2012 8:13:40 AM PDT by mdmathis6 (Kiss the Son!)
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To: Persevero
The crucifix is an attempt to remember and honor that.

So much more than just this. It is a visual expression of the mystery of God's Incarnation. It is a visual expression of the mystery of atonement, and of every human soul's call to conversion in Christ and acceptance of our own crosses in response to this call. It signifies Jesus's unreserved gift of self for the sake of his spouse the Church. It signifies the liturgical mystery of the Eucharist. Each of these elements is worthy of an eternity of contemplation; the crucifix is a bottomless reservoir of mystery offered to every Christian.

40 posted on 06/13/2012 8:13:40 AM PDT by Romulus (The Traditional Latin Mass is the real Youth Mass)
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