What to do when church means nothing at all

The trend in recent decades is that American youth are growing up with less and less exposure to church and Christian teachings. Why this trend? Because church has become irrelevant and meaningless to our surrounding culture. American culture is changing, and the church is being left behind. (An ironic twist on the Left Behind book series could be inserted here.)

I was reminded of this yesterday as I listened to a song I like very much, "Crooked Teeth" by Death Cab for Cutie. If you don't know Death Cab, they are an indie rock band from Washington. Incidentally, the band's name was taken from a song performed in the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour movie. Death Cab has grown to immense popularity, with at least one platinum album.

The chorus in "Crooked Teeth" goes:

And you can't find nothing at all
If there was nothing there all along

Yesterday as I was listening to it, the final lyrics of the song caught my ear:

And you can't find nothing at all
If there was nothing there all along
There were churches, theme parks and malls
But there was nothing there all along.

There you have it. Churches are on a par with theme parks and shopping malls. Meaningless. A place where you will find "nothing at all." Statistics show that a growing number of people feel this way. Death Cab has voiced a widespread opinion.

What should we do? We are called to make disciples in the same culture that considers us meaningless. Retreating won't work. The fundamentalist church tried that in the last century. Complaining won't help. We Christians have tried that too, haven't we? I wish we would stop. The kingdom of God is not about retreating or complaining. How about engaging the culture? Wouldn't you like to sit down and ask, "Why do you feel that a church is a place where you will find 'nothing at all?' What is the 'something' you would be looking for?" Listening would be a great start toward a constructive engagement with people who feel the church is full of nothing at all. And the answers we receive might surprise us. We won't know until we ask.


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