When a preacher guy like me sees a headline that blares, “Clergy who don’t believe in organized religion?,” it’s like dangling a minnow in front of a bass. So naturally I took the bait, clicking on this March 30 Washington Times article by Julie Zauzmer.
There I found a story that was intriguing – if not surprising. Humanist “clergy” across the United States are forming congregations that don’t worship, pray or study scripture. They come together, like churches, to sing, listen to messages and serve – but talk of God is noticeably absent. “I like to say I’m a believer in the potential of human goodness,” noted Randall Best, the leader of the Northern Virginia Ethical Society, a community that holds Sunday classes, celebrates seasonal festivals and takes stands on social issues.
Leaders of such secular societies believe they are poised to exponentially grow. The millennial generation is severing religious ties in higher numbers than ever before. Those who do not confess to a specific religion have jumped from 5 percent in 1972 to 25 percent today, yet they still desire a sense of community and purpose in these turbulent times. Interestingly, only a small portion of that 25% claim they are atheist or agnostic. Many describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious” or “nothing in particular.”
Remember what Jesus said? “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). I believe it is the church, not a humanist club, that’s poised for mind-boggling growth. After all, we offer something that no organization on earth can: the Gospel. It is the Good News that counteracts the Bad News that all of us know deep down inside: we are a ruined race. Our thoughts go to dark places, our lips utter noxious words. We are in the grip of envy, lust, wrath, selfish ambition, deceit, anxieties, greed, pride and sin we can’t even name, but we know is lurking somewhere in a shadowy corner of our souls. Left to our own devices, we have proven, time and time again, that we fall, founder and fail. No amount of education, scientific discovery, technological advancement or political policy has changed this – and it never will. But the Church holds out real hope, the hope of Jesus Christ. As times get darker, the city on the hill can shine like never before!
Yes, I know the church has messed up. We have not always lived up to the ideals entrusted to us. But I am thankful that we are not in control. God is. And God is working, even now, to refine His ekklesia. The churches that hold out the genuine Gospel, offer vibrant Christian community, and work the true work of Jesus will draw people who aren’t even sure why they are being drawn.
No, the church does not have “all the answers.” But the true church knows the One who does, and He will always be the hope of a fallen human race.