If you go to Church, make sure to leave your brain at the door

We have all heard the title of this post, perhaps some of you might hurl it at Christians. It has been thrown at me, and when it is I laugh and deny the veracity of such a statement. But is there a hint of truth in it?

As of late, I’ve been listening to the lectures of Ravi Zacharias. As some of you may know, Ravi goes to college campuses to speak about the Christian faith. During his visit to Columbia University, a student asks him the following question (at around minute 6:50),

What is your opinion about the state of the Church in the U.S.?

To which the Zacharias responds as only he can with his rich Indian accent and flowing eloquence,

The problem with America today is not America. It’s the church.

We have become very shallow as Christians, very shallow. We have become masters at engineering feelings without much thought.

Very little thinking that goes on at church. We repeat things, parrot things, we have not thought our faith through. We have not listened to others and what their questions are.

Our answers are very shallow. In trying to become seeker-friendly we have become message unfriendly.

We have no real depth to what we are trying to teach and speak.

Life has got its jagged edges against us and we are giving simplistic answers.

Somewhere we fell into the trap of believing that music is everything. Forgetting it is only one thing.

And that teaching and ideas are important and an expenditure of words without an income of ideas will lead to conceptual bankruptcy. And we are so conceptually bankrupt on this.

We cannot really explain these things, and until the church wakes up to what our message is and thinks deeply about these things we will slip deeper and deeper into parroting phrases that have very little difference in our lifestyles.

Is Ravi’s response accurate of the state of the American Church?


10 Responses to If you go to Church, make sure to leave your brain at the door

  1. I think that this is true in some instances. I attended one church for a while, and I think he must have had this file of sermons… before a service he’d pull it out and review it and preach it. I don’t know, but I heard some sermons at least 3 times in 3 years. Once I heard an interesting sermon about revivals and I wanted to find out more, so I googled some of the stuff that he had brought up, and almost everything was there in the order that he preached it on one of the sites that I came up with. The church that I went to as a kid had music, some recitation and a short story that passed as a sermon. It seemed so useless to me that I didn’t go to church for most of college. I ended up getting interested in the rapture and finding a good Bible study after a couple of years, but that was it.

    When I go to a church that really gets into God’s word, makes me look up several verses, and ties things together in a way that really makes me think, it’s awesome. The Bible is such a complicated book… life is too short for watered down sermons that don’t make people think, IMO.

  2. Chris says:

    “Very little thinking … goes on at church.”

    This is the only way that religion can survive.

    I believe there are two major reasons people go to church. First, most were raised as children by their parents to attend church, where they were taught that this is just something that is expected of them and which they should continue to practice as adults. And second, that once one has attended a church for a while they continue to go because they have established friends and developed some form of support network. Their church’s ministers will come and go and church programs may change over time, but their friends remain at the church and people gain a sense of commitment.

    Neither of these actions requires an emphasis on deep thinking about the actual religious message and doctrine. Most (maybe all) religions contain inconsistencies which cannot be explained logically if one really tries to analyze them. If people thought too much about these they might come to see their religion as nonsense and stop attending.

  3. Pingback: Thoughts on the Present-Day Church (in the U.S.) « Journey to Somewhere

  4. ckclarkson says:

    Chris, I think you’ve got some pretty narrow blinders on. Churches populated by the kind of people you describe are usually spiritually dead or dying, and there are unfortunately a lot of them. Having been around many churches, though, both mainline and evangelical, my observation is just the opposite of yours. Churches that ask the hard questions, dig for defensible answers, and honestly seek truth are flourishing and growing. I’ve been in the churches you described and I, as a faith-centered believer, would never attend them. Bleccch. If I felt I had to leave my brain at the door, you can be sure my body would not be in the pew.

    I’m sorry you have not, apparently, been around Christians who take the time to “analyze” their beliefs, and who go to church because their beliefs really do make sense to them. There is a component of “faith” in Christianity, but that is not “nonsense.” Christianity has continued for two millennia because it does not violate the “mind,” and precisely because it makes better sense of life than the atheistic materialist belief system that preaches faith in “chance.” Ravi is, sadly, right in his evaluation of the church today, though. I can certainly understand that you would have to look pretty hard to find the “real thing.”

  5. prolepticlife says:

    Ravi is one of the intellectuals of Christianity today and overall I believe he has a good grasp on the state of things. But I do wonder how anyone can make such a broad sweeping generalization without having much actual experience in church settings. What I mean is Ravi is usually speaking somewhere and if he is attending a service it is probably in a mega church somewhere. Is he really seeing what is being taught and preached in the average church in America. The average church is not the mega church it is the church with about 70 to 100 people in attendance.

  6. Joe says:

    I know several people in my circle of friends who have gone through their own struggle with what they believe and why, and of the two, one has come out on the other side believing that organized church is more a feel-good business than anything else. Sometimes I think that modern American churches don’t offer more in-depth answers or solutions because of the potential for loss.

    People don’t want to hear that the world is hard and the solutions are too, they want answers that are easy to digest, not to mention easy to sit through.

  7. Chattanoogan says:

    Ravi’s right on. I agree with him that, in general, the American church glosses over deep problems with trite, well-used answers. As a whole, our faith is shallow. We don’t take many risks trusting God, and we aren’t really bothered by this fact. We need to be humbled and revitalized.

  8. Ed Darrell says:

    Shallow, and for too many, stupid, too.

  9. Laz says:

    You did read what Zacharias said, right?

    What do you make of what Zacharias is saying?

    Thank you all for your input. The current trend within the Church of buying sermons online is shameful and I think this is the kind of thing Ravi is alluding to.

    If some pastors have stopped probing and seeking God’s guidance in their preaching what is to be expected of the individuals which make up their congregations?

  10. Jim Kang says:

    Ravi Zacharias’ assessment is right on. Many people would not agree with his observations, and some would even find those words to be offensive and/or judgmental. But the sad reality is many of our churches are unhealthy, and need of serious repentance, revival, and reformation. And some need resurrections!

    The analysis of Ravi are mere symptoms of our present sicknesses, however, they are not the root of the problem. That’s another whole issue and another whole discussion. The bigger problem is that our churches today don’t realize that we’re sick. Unless we honestly agree with such assessment like that of Ravi (and many other voices in the wilderness) we are in serious trouble. I have also expressed similar sentiments in my blog recently if you’re interested in reading them. Thank you for this particular post.

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