Why Go to Worship When You Can Go to Wrigley?

WrigleyA few weeks ago, a friend invited me to go with him to a Cubs game. Now, despite the fact that baseball is about as exciting to me as watching paint dry, I had a good time. Not only do I enjoy my friend’s company, we spent most of the time talking about theology and church-related stuff. But as we were talking, I noticed that our conversation wasn’t the only thing that had a religious feeling to it: so did Wrigley Field.

With a 1pm start time on a Friday afternoon, you might have expected a slightly lower than average attendance (I did, at least). In fact, it was a sellout game (41,547), standing room only, despite being right in the middle of a workday. A good portion of the people there must have taken the day off or left work early. In terms of demographics, the crowd was significantly younger than what you’d find in a typical congregation on Sunday morning.

The level of devotion that can be seen at Wrigley these days is hard to find. We’ve traditionally used the phrase “religious devotion” to indicate the highest degree of dedication to something, but more and more people seem to be finding their spirituality in stadiums instead of sanctuaries. In a 2014 Washington Post article, Beneke and Remillard write,

“American sports fans have forged imperishable bonds with the people, places and moments that define their teams. You might even call this attachment religious.

But that would be unfair — to sports.”

The average Cubs game draws an average of 38,842 fans. Compare that to the average weekly attendance at U.S. congregations, which is less than 100. There seems to be an inverse correlation here between an activity’s significance and how much we’re willing to sacrifice for it.

For most people, it’s harder to go somewhere at 1pm on a Friday afternoon than at 9am on a Sunday morning. Yet, the same generation that is ubiquitous at Wrigley is mostly absent from worship. They’re still getting their religion, it’s just not from church. Fierce loyalty, ritual, and sacred space are all central to the fan experience. Beneke and Remillard go on to say,

“Modern sports stadiums function much like great cathedrals once did, bringing communities together and focusing their collective energy. This summer, the Archdiocese of New York is expected to outline plans to close or merge some of its 368 parishes; 26 Catholic schools in the archdiocese have ceased operation. By contrast, the city and the state of New Jersey spent hundreds of millions to build new baseball and football stadiums.”[iii]

Non-churchgoers will often tell you they don’t need to go to church because they “can pray anywhere.” At least we know where they’re doing all that praying.


Comments

Why Go to Worship When You Can Go to Wrigley? — 48 Comments

  1. This phenomena is also readily apparent on Super Bowl Sunday when one goes into a grocery store after attending church. There you will find not only the clerks in the store but the customers wearing their ‘vestments’ – the colors of their favorite teams.

    Diane

  2. Disclaimer: I have a love and affinity for American sports. I have spent way too many hours playing in and watching sporting events. I even witnessed Ernie Banks hit a game-winning homerun at Wrigley Field against the Houston Colt 45s. Having said that, I am now able to observe that religion is muscled out of people’s lives by more material interests. It starts early when the pastor is hard-pressed to accommodate the conflicting schedules of each of his confirmands who have plenty of other commitments, many of which involve participation in some organized sport. Religious concerns and activities are deemed nonessential to those who have other, more engaging options and are often the first to go when activities and events are prioritized. Why some of us place more worth in God’s gifts of forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation than do others is a mystery. I mean, what could be more important than learning about and worshiping an eternal God who bestows eternal life? All other things must shrink to insignificance, right? But some things are apparent and to be expected, I suppose. For instance, Americans are too affluent to value the Church the way the less fortunate in the world do. They’re preoccupied with political freedom and not being persecuted for being Christian (yet, or for the most part). They are not faced with their own mortality on a daily basis. Death and tragedy are unforeseen, so things spiritual take a backseat to the more immediate secular. They seek experience, excitement, and most of all, escape, not ecclesiastical routine. Whatever you do, you mustn’t bore an American. Americans see church, sadly, as just one more reduction of their precious 168 given to do all those other things. And let’s face it: for many people, sports have been elevated by the media and taken on divine attributes, and have become bigger than life itself! Amen! Come quickly lord espn.

  3. People would rather go to a baseball game than a church service? This is shocking news. 😉

    Why do we think that is the case?

    At a baseball game, no one tells me that I am a bad person destined for eternal fire without the intervention of a cosmic human blood sacrifice to save me from it all. Why would anyone pay real money on a weekly basis to hear such a morbid message?

  4. We have here another thread bemoaning the lack of enthusiasm for the church. I’m offering the perspective of a former LCMS member.

    To me it’s obvious why church attendance is dropping and why people would rather go to sporting events than church: the church has a profoundly negative message. A message with zero evidence to back it up.

    In my experience, people respond poorly to negative messages. Telling people that they are “poor miserable sinners” deserving nothing but “eternal punishment” is unlikely to win you many converts.

    Conservative Christianity has lost its monopoly in America. There are competing religions (like Islam, Buddhism, and Liberal Christianity) within our borders, as well as a growing secular movement. What’s the plan for maintaining your “market share” now that there is competition? Messages which derive their power from fear and guilt are unlikely to be very sucessful.

  5. @Jason #5

    @Mark #4

    I’d just let it go. Editors of this site have done well in the past in dealing with trolls. I assume they’ll continue.

    Remember Romans 8:7, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God.”

  6. @Kurt Poeppel #6

    “What’s the plan for maintaining your “market share” now that there is competition?”

    I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

  7. @Kurt Poeppel #6

    Islam, Buddhism, and Liberal Christianity

    Not several religions. Just denominations of the same religion, works and self.

    The dominant religion of America today is self-esteem. At one time it was pragmatism, but no more. Self, and the un-pragmatic consequences be damned.

  8. Major league sports are one problem, youth sports is another (which feeds into the major league sports’ addiction). All pastors have seen the increasing encroachment of youth sports into the schedules of the members of our congregations. Here’s just one article summarizing the problem:

    Have Youth Sports Become a New Religion?

    On Sundays, throughout America, families congregate for a common cause. They clap, shout, chant, give praise and may even sing a few songs.

    This type of Sunday worship scene can be witnessed in churches, mosques, and synagogues; or on fields or gymnasiums.

    As church attendance goes down and youth sports participation climbs, you have to wonder: Has youth sports become a new religion?

    Before you cry blasphemy, consider the commonalities between youth sports and religion. Parents get children involved at a young age. They align themselves with various organizations, hoping that early commitment to training and instruction will pay off later.

    Groups are formed locally with ties to national governing bodies. Charismatic coaches attract recruits just like popular preachers grow their flock. With religion and youth sports, fundraising is an ongoing and integral part of participation.

    Bob Cook, a writer and frequent contributor to Forbes.com, recently wrote an article “How Youth Sports Is Killing Sunday School.”

    In the article, Cook, a Sunday school teacher, laments about the conflict between God and sports. He writes that from 2004 to 2010, Sunday school attendance dropped nearly 40 percent among Evangelical Lutheran churches in America and nearly eight percent among Southern Baptists.

    Meanwhile, Cook admits that he has kept his own kids home from Sunday school because they were too tired after a week of activities, including sports.

    Sports on Sunday are nothing new.

    The NFL’s regularly-scheduled games are like post-church rituals. However, youth sports compete with church attendance. Even travel games scheduled on Saturday interfere with a family’s preparation for Sunday worship. In a November 2014 issue of America: the National Catholic Review, Mary Ann Walsh reported that

    in North Dakota, some school districts work with local church officials to keep Wednesday evenings after 5 p.m. free of all sports and other school activities. They have deemed those evenings as time for religious instruction.

    Walsh also wrote that the late Cardinal John O’Connor once complained that he was losing alter boys to Little League.

    Parents make decisions about religious involvement. Yet while there is no orchestrated effort to embrace youth sports on Sunday, the practice has become acceptable.

    Even with oversight from national organizations, most youth sports leagues are communal creations. Parents help decide team schedules, as well as whether to commit to a league that plays games on Sundays.

    Peer pressure to get a child in the perfect sports program, may be stronger than guilt associated with missing Sunday worship.

    No longer simply an activity to develop athletic skills, youth sports has become big business. Players used to count on middle school and high school to showcase their talents. Now must compete on club and travel teams to rank among the best.

    The growing commitment to youth sports and apparent de-commitment to religion reflects the changing demographics in America.

    According to a survey conducted by Pew Research, religious affiliation in America is more diverse and fluid. The findings, based on a survey of 35,000 people, show that 28 percent of American adults have left the faith in which they were raised, in favor of another religion or no religion.

    This splinter in affiliation means youth sports teams are no longer made up of a homogenous religious community. Parents that opt out of spiritual pursuits, probably feel less guilty about their children participating in sports on Sunday.

    Unless players participate on religious-sponsored teams, the demands of the sport will probably supersede church attendance.

    The parents’ belief system is central to the debate about youth sports versus religion. Do they have more faith in the team than religion? Perhaps they find promises of rewards in the hereafter, less appealing than hopes of landing scholarships in the near future.

    If time, money and devotion are used to measure priorities, youth sports just may be winning over religion.

    From: Youthletic

  9. @Kurt Poeppel #3

    Hi Kurt,

    Please don’t leave us with the law only. At church we certainly hear about our sinfulness and the hell where that sinfulness leads apart from Christ. But primarily we hear about our loving Father who forgives us and gives us the very life giving body and blood of his Son Jesus who came to give his life for us. The world has nothing eternal to offer. It rejects Jesus, but we in the Church have nowhere else but Jesus to turn because he is the only One who has the words of eternal life.

  10. @Diane #1

    And I don’t understand the thought process of thise who believe they have to miss church to attend a sporting event.

    I love sports. Love football and baseball. But our family made it clear that we would not be participating in travel leagues because far too many of the games occur on Sunday mornings. I fail to understand what’s so difficult about at least moving the games to afternoons so as to not interfere with worship.

  11. @J. Dean #14

    I love sports. … I fail to understand what’s so difficult about at least moving the games to afternoons so as to not interfere with worship.

    For some, interfering with worship is the point.

  12. Pastor Anderson, I can understand your comparison, but as you discovered, a good companion (and that location) give you an opportunity for several hours discussion (with a minimum of interruption). 🙂

  13. Spot on Pastor Andersen. I confess that I am guilty of this. But Pastor Fisk’s segment on Issues, etc., (http://issuesetc.org/2016/04/05/3-pop-culture-a-sports-centered-culture-pr-jonathan-fisk-4516/) really opened my eyes to the truth. And really, sports represent the more obvious of the Pantheon of American gods. Just as each Greek city had their own patron god, so too does each American city. Go to Green Bay, WI, sometime, if you don’t believe me.

    My grandma recently lamented how “there’s no religion” and that that is the cause of many of our problems. I believe that’s wrong – everyone is religious, and quite zealously so. Rather it’s that people’s religion has been misdirected and aimed toward things as ridiculous as hitting a ball with a bat, saving the earth, or empowering women (just to name a few).

  14. The problem is not sports, but man, and lack of faith. Sports are neither righteous nor unrighteous, just so music, just so tools and implements, just so poetry, just so bars and other meeting places, and just so many other things. Let all we do be done to the glory of the Father.

  15. It was G.K. Chesterton who said it well: Idolatry occurs when we worship what should be used, or use what should be worshiped.

  16. I don’t think the average American treats sports as a religion or “worships” sports. It’s just a nice escape from reality for a bit. A diversion. A hobby. Sure, there are some overzealous fans, but I don’t think they are the majority.

    What’s wrong with sports? Sure, anything can become excessive, but overall it’s harmless. The Taliban famously banned things like soccer and kite flying. Surely the LCMS doesn’t want to be percieved as a Taliban-like organization.

  17. @Kurt Poeppel #21

    I agree that we can go too far and turn into legalistic pietists on this issue. Sports in and of itself is not bad, not at all. But what’s being addressed is how it becomes a god in the lives of people, and particularly (as I see more and more) how people are willing to give up assembling in church for it.

    I once read an ad that said “7a.m. Every Sunday: Who says men can’t commit?” and it was referring to people spending all morning in front of a TV to watch pregame programs. Now, I love football. But 1.) our time in church is far more important, 2.) 99 percent of the time these pregame shows are just recycling information already talked about earlier in the week, and 3.) if I really need to see something on TV that’s being shown during worship, I can record it.

    The truth is, though, many of these people who skip church for sports, be it a televised game or a kid’s travel league, probably already have their heart set on an excuse to leave church anyway, sad to say. The sports is a symptom; the cause is our own rebellious nature.

  18. @J. Dean #22

    I don’t think sports is needed as an excuse to avoid church. There are plenty of other good excuses, like “it’s too cold out” or “I have to do my taxes.” 😉

    Why are people looking for excuses to avoid church in the first place? That is the deeper question. If the Gospel is such a powerful and wonderful life-changing message, then why are people looking for excuses to avoid it? You say it is because of rebelliousness, but that makes no sense. Why would anyone want to rebel against something wonderful? Nobody wants to rebel against puppies or kittens or cable TV. Why would anyone want to rebel against church attendance?

  19. @Kurt Poeppel #23

    What is your goal here?

    You said in the other article that you have no interest in talking us out of our religion.

    You have stated time and again that you believe the reason people don’t go to church is because of what we confessional Lutherans believe about sin and Jesus’ atonement.

    Seriously, it’s not that we don’t understand what you’re saying. We just disagree with it. If you think your trying to educate a bunch of ignorant people, I assure you that’s not happening. We actually find the message that you preach in these two articles to be vain and empty.

    Why do people want to rebel? Essentially it boils down to this: If God is God then that means I can’t be god or have control and I don’t like that very much.

    Why have you rebelled? You’ve stated yourself that you find the idea of the substitutionary atonement barbaric. That’s what you said in the other article. You rebel because God is not what you personally expect Him to be.

  20. @Kurt Poeppel #23
    Dear Kurt,
    01) If a person needs an excuse, they will find one. Millions of excuses to be had.

    02) Why are people avoiding Church? My take, “you ain’t gonna die”. At least for a while. Youth and invincibility do come into play.

    03) I do not think rebelling is the issue. Truly, God is everywhere, we can pray to Him anywhere. Being at Church, in His presence in a more full way, is great and I think cool, but at a time, as many, I could wait for next week, and wait, and wait. After all, the Law does not force me to attend, does it?

    04) Free will is a kicker, God does not yank you into Church. He draws, offers, etc., you can turn down.

  21. @Kurt Poeppel #23

    By your logic Christ should have never been crucified. Either that, or you’re suggesting there was something wrong with his message, because Israel’s Sanhedrin sure didn’t want to hear it.

    We are sinners and do not want to hear the truth that we need a Savior. We are tainted with original sin. We rebel and do not want to do the right thing, or believe the right thing. Anybody who has been a parent can attest to this on a practical level; how many times have you tried to show your child what is good and right and they make a decision contrary to what is good and right (and anybody who says “my child doesn’t do that” is either a liar or naive about their child).

    And I would suggest reminding you about passages such as I John 3:13, reminding us that the world as a whole will reject Christ.

  22. @Pastor Prentice #25

    I’m not sure I agree with your point number 3. You say rebellion is not the issue, but then you describe what I would call rebellion.

    “Truly, God is everywhere, we can pray to Him anywhere.”

    Is He everywhere for the forgiveness of sins? Is it not rebellious to refuse to come to the place where baptism washes our sins away, where the forgiveness of sins for the sake of Christ is preached to us, where the body and blood of Christ “strenghthen and preserves us in body and soul unto life everlasting”?

    I wouldn’t say church is being “in His presence in a more full way”. I’m almost certain it’s not what you mean, but that comes across as experiential/feel good. Being at Church, is being there to receive the good gifts that Jesus comes to give as host: forgiveness, life, and salvation through the means of grace. Yes, I can stay home and read the Gospel every Sunday morning. However, eventually I’m going to start to have my doubts. I need to hear it from someone else. I need to hear it from Christ’s called servant. I need it to be placed into my mouth. I need to be reminded that I’m baptized.

    “The Law does not force me to attend, does it?”

    “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”

    If someone is as you describe, aren’t they guilty of breaking the third commandment? Worse still, they have cut themselves off from the means of grace and the fellowship of being with the Body of Christ.

    I’ll try to paraphrase what Luther says about the Lord’s Supper in the Large Catechism: We’re not going to force anyone to attend the Supper, but if they don’t receive it, they might as well decide not to be Christians.

    Isn’t refusing to attend where God has promised to bestow His gifts rebellion?

  23. @T-rav #27
    Hello T-RaV,
    hMMM, I think this rebellion is really intellectual ignorance. I had it for a time as a young person. I think you know what I mean.

    I officially love being in the Sanctuary, in the Church, with Body and Blood on my mouth, etc.

    I would say, rebellion is refusing to call God, God…oh, gotta go, hitting the White Sox Game tonight. No worship, but a good beer and a win I hope.

  24. @Kurt Poeppel #23

    Others have touched on points I was going to make, so I’ll try to be brief. I think much of it comes down to a misunderstanding (or ignorance) of Law and Gospel. Would it be a stretch to say that most people don’t care much about the Gospel because they feel that they have no need of it? In other words, if I’m a pretty good person, then why do I need saving? I’m A-OK just the way I am.

    A proper understanding, however, reveals the gangrene wound and the miraculous salve: I *am* a poor, miserable sinner, dead in my trespasses, owing the Creator and Father of all a debt that I cannot ever hope to repay. Once this is established (and I suspect everyone knows this in their heart, although some folks have become callous and very good at repressing this truth), then the Gospel shines forth much brighter. Once I realize the hopeless state that I’m in, and then see, “That impossible debt has been fully paid,” and “Wow, this is free!”, then the Gospel becomes that crisp, quenching drink that brings the peace that passes all understanding. As Jesus Himself said, “He who is forgiven little love little,” which I’ve always taken to mean the one who thinks he’s “pretty good,” believe he doesn’t need a Savior. Now go back and read about the woman in that account and compare (Luke 7:36-50).

  25. Also, Kurt, not sure if this is your angle, but just wanted to say:

    The Gospel is what it is. It’s about the atonement and sacrifice that Jesus made for us out of His unfathomable love. It’s about changing our future from certain damnation to certain eternal life. If you are hoping to dress it up and make it fun or entertaining, you’re missing the point for a number of reasons. First of all, it takes the focus away from Christ and unto self. (“I’m not having fun at this church service, so therefore it isn’t any good. Nevermind that I’m hearing the things that I need, I want the things that I want.”) Second of all, there are too many other things out there that do a way better job of providing fun and entertainment. So if the church wants to compete in that business, it will never win. Unless, of course, it fundamentally changes so that’s it’s no longer about Christ, but about the music, or maybe the life lessons, or maybe the child-care program… But then you don’t have a church, you have a rock concert, or a TED talk, or… Anything but what you need, which is Christ crucified for you, and given (literally!) to you each week for your edification. Finally, most folks eventually see through the ruse and find out they’ve been duped. Once they see that someone has tricked them into being a Christian, but they actually know nothing of Christ, and all those empty promises of the modern psuedo-churches, such as emotions, happiness, wealth, etc., were actually lies, they desert Christianity, and worse, very rarely come back.

    So if your angle is, “People don’t like the Gospel; therefore we need to cover it up with fancy clothes” like all of the church-growthers, you actually do more harm than good. And in some cases, you no longer have a church, but a cult.

  26. Surely the LCMS doesn’t want to be percieved as a Taliban-like organization.

    I feel we are but swirls before your opine.

  27. Not to be persnickety on the article, but I think it builds a false comparison. If the average Cubs game draws around 38K people, that’s for only one beloved sports team in a major city. Maybe you could say there’s a second MLB team with the White Sox. However, of all the churches in the Chicago metro area, when you roll them together, how many people are at worship on a Sunday morning? I bet it’s more than 38K.

    Also, as a life long sports fan and occasional athlete, I don’t know anyone who comes to sporting events for the same reason they would go to church. Sports is pure entertainment– church is at least fundamentally different (though some churches certainly blur the line). Why compare an entertainment event to the central mystery of the Christian Faith?

    Not only are the numbers not well correlated (1 MLB team to one Lutheran congregation,) the subject matters don’t really align, either (entertainment to an encounter with the divine).

  28. To all:

    Yes I am familiar with the Law – Gospel dynamic, since I grew up in the LCMS.

    To me, it looks like a strategy of *creating a problem* and then *offering the solution*. The bank robber has a similar strategy: create fear by threatening people with death, and then offer the “solution”, which is giving him all of the money.

    Essentially, the church does the same thing: it stirs up a lot of fear and guilt in people, and then offers the “solution” in the form of a blood sacrifice and required church attendance. And the strategy “works” to some extent. The fear of death is a powerful emotion, as you know. So is guilt. And humans have always had a fascination with blood sacrifices as a way to appease angry deities.

    But here’s the problem: people are becoming better educated. People are less likely to see scary things like death, disease, strokes, heart attacks, lightning, earthquakes, volcanos, comets, and other natural phenomena as punishmemts from angry gods. And quite a few people see blood sacrifice as a barbaric relic from ancient superstitions.

    From inside the LCMS belief system, it appears that people forego church due to some kind of rebellion or refusal to acknowledge their supposed guilt. But a more rational explanation is this: people are simply turned off by extraordinary claims without any extraordinary evidence to back them up. Especially if said claims are negative, morbid, and emotionally manipulative.

    Let me be more specific: the LCMS and other conservative Christian groups make some very extraordinary claims about reality:

    1) death is a punishment from an angry god

    2) a human sacrifice can save you from said punishment, and thus you can live forever

    Those are extraordinary claims. Said claims are every bit as extraordinary as saying that the universe is controlled by purple leprechauns from outer space, and that these leprechauns can make you live forever if you stab yourself in the hand every week to show them how sorry you are for your misdeeds.

    Wouldn’t you rather spend a day at a baseball game than at a place which tried to control you with the fear of angry leprechauns?

    Before anyone chastises me for comparing conservative Christianity to belief in leprechauns, keep in mind that the amount of evidence for conservative Christianity is *exactly the same* as the amount of evidence for leprechauns. From a rational perspective, there’s no more reason to believe in the one than the other!

  29. < < Statement from your moderators >>

    The latest comment by Kurt has been removed, and he has been put on moderated status.

  30. @BJS Moderators #36

    Thanks, Norm. That probably needed to be done.

    Perhaps in another thread, a conversation could be started about some of his claims. Primarily, I would think it’s worth exploring the link he suggested in his LCMS experience, with his newfound repudiation of the faith. This linkage has been asserted by other atheists coming out of other church bodies, and at least from a self examination perspective, is probably worth pondering. Is there something in the way the LCMS is conducting ministry that is moving people toward atheism?

    To be clear, I’m not suggesting a review of our fundamental doctrinal sources (Scripture and the Confessions) but rather, the way in which the LCMS has been living and teaching them relative to atheists like Kurt who have left the LCMS.

  31. @helen #37

    There is a moderator(s) on LQ, but 1 Kings 18:27 comes to mind: “Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”

  32. “Free will is a kicker, God does not yank you into Church. He draws, offers, etc., you can turn down.”

    What? We don’t have “free will” – we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. That is the great lie of Satan: that we are free.

    Martin Luther wrote a book about against this myth of “free will” called “Bondage of the Will”. Some of you may have actually heard about this or read it. Evidently this “Lutheran” Pastor who is saying we have a “choice” to believe, worship God or not, etc. doesn’t really think all that much of the bondage of the will or sin for that matter.

    The fact of the matter is this: we are given our faith and kept in faith by the Holy Spirit alone (see Luther’s explanation of the third article of the creed). If you do show up to church (a real one that preaches the Gospel and not works/law only) that is not your “choice” or doing – that is God’s work through the Holy Spirit. How do we get the Holy Spirit? We are given it in Baptism by the speaking of God’s Word to us – it is God’s gift through His Word.

    The truth of the matter is that the Holy Spirit makes faith when and where He wills through the means of Grace (the Word of the Gospel given in preaching, absolution, baptism, & the Lord’s Supper). Its God who elects or chooses us not our us who chooses him.

    So God is not coming to us hat-in-hand like a beggar waiting for us to get our mythical “freewill” in gear to “choose” Him (and subsequently “prove” our choice is real by our fervent works or church attendance). He is actively choosing the ungodly wherever and whenever His Word of Gospel is rightly proclaimed and His Sacraments rightly administered.

    Now, since our default position in life is bondage to Sin (that is to say we always choose ourselves and our desires over God) and that we now have many, many other words other then god’s to keep us trapped in our delusion of “free-will” (aka original sin) is to state the obvious. Yes, because we are in bondage to sin we are naturally resistant to God. We can especially be resistant because God has choosen the seemingly weakest means in the universe to come to us in: words, water, bread and wine. However, this negative power of resistance is in fact no power at all.

    I scratch my head as to why supposedly confessional Lutherans and Lutheran Pastor, when there is no immediate gratification from the proclaimation of the Word and administration of the Sacrements are so quick to jump back onto the glory road of law and “free will” as the solution to the supposed “problem” of low church attendance. It seems to me, if you are feeding the myth of salvation by works through your “free will” choices – including the “choice” of God and church attendance – then you in fact part of the problem.

    Hey, after all, if we are “saved” by what we do or do not do (our “free will” choices) and not God’s Word of Promise then why not go to youth sports or Wrigley?

    After all, if you go to work, pay your taxes, aren’t hooked on drugs, “trying” to be a good parent, etc AND appear to be more successful at it then the folks on tv or your neighbors in town then why the heck wouldn’t you skip church? If God grades “on the curve” by works and I’m higher up on it, well I guess I don’t need to rush to church at all. This is a logical conclusion.

  33. @William S. #40

    Regarding free-will: if you are referring to conversion, you are correct: we do not have free-will. Conversion is a sovereign act of God.

    But, regarding moral agency, we do have free will… To a point. An atheist may choose to do a good work. He does it for a reason other than a biblical one (which is a sin too) but he can do a good work nevertheless.

    Likewise, a Christian can also choose to sin or not sin. Each day, when I get up, opportunities to do right or wrong are before me, and I choose to do or not do them. No, we are not Arminian/Wesleyans who believe we can attain Christian perfection. But we do acknowledge and understand that the choices we make are free insofar as how that term accords with God and His Word.

  34. Why was Kurt’s comment removed? While some might think him to be trolling, it seems he has some common, legitimate issues which require some thoughtful answers. Perhaps refuting his points won’t help him, but it could be beneficial to others. I’m sure we all know someone like Kurt who has left the church because “people are becoming more educated.” (Which is a joke. People are getting dumber, if anything.) And it would be nice to see how that discussion evolves so that we, in turn, can take the knowledge of that discussion and use it with folks who need it in our lives.

    Anyway, that’s just my two cents. And I’ve only run into him here in this one thread, so maybe there were some other issues that popped up with him. But I would have liked to engage him and his points, since I think he hasn’t really thought his thesis through very much.

  35. Kurt makes a good point here:

    To me it’s obvious why church attendance is dropping and why people would rather go to sporting events than church: the church has a profoundly negative message.

    Martin Luther agrees with you, sir! These “profoundly negative message[s]” are from false teachers.

    “The greatest abuse, however, occurs in spiritual matters, which pertain to the conscience, when false preachers arise and peddle their lying nonsense as the Word of God. See, all this is an attempt to embellish yourself with God’s name, or to put up a good front and justify yourself, whether in ordinary worldly affairs or in the sublime and difficult matters of faith and doctrine” (The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Tappert edition, page 372, para. 45-55).

  36. It’s obvious Kurt is trolling a bit…. some of the points he brings up are still worthy of discussing (with or without him)

    If the Gospel is such a powerful and wonderful life-changing message, then why are people looking for excuses to avoid it? You say it is because of rebelliousness, but that makes no sense. Why would anyone want to rebel against something wonderful? Nobody wants to rebel against puppies or kittens or cable TV.

    I rebelled against my earthly parents–haven’t met anyone that didn’t; Rebelling against our Heavenly Father is the same. I’m sure most here can recall a time from their youth when they turned their noses up at something truly marvelous/spectacular from their parents….. Pride? Arrogance? Rebelliousness?

    Yes.
    Yes.
    Yes.

    And in love our parents disciplined us and called us to repentance.

    anecdotal
    I asked my 7-year-old daughter the same thing the other day. She was offered a day of fun-filled-awesomeness and chose, instead, to suffer my wrath because she refused to repent for her unkind acts to her siblings.

    I guess the fun-filled-awesomeness just wasn’t wonderful enough to entice her. Or perhaps, I don’t really love her. Or maybe, I’m not real: I’m a magic-sky-daddy and that’s why she didn’t listen to me.

    Nobody wants to rebel against puppies or kittens…
    Dude, really? Please tell me you scraped that off some teenager’s Twitter feed, that doesn’t even make sense.

    + pax +

  37. Pr. Anderson.

    Interesting to use Wrigley (the Cubbies) for comparison.

    Recipe for Future Church Growth
    They kicked out a goat…
    never really win
    ….now everyone loves ’em.

    Maybe negative messages do work.

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