Atheist churches—I know, total oxymoron—are popping up everywhere these days, drawing people from all walks of life who simply want to celebrate being alive. They sing songs, hear an inspirational messages, and focus on the positive aspects of life. After all, the headline news these days can be anything but positive, so listening to some more joyful aspects of being human is probably a breath of fresh air for most.
Christian churches, on the other hand, are seeing a decline in their attendance, mostly from the millennial generation. As a mature Christian, this concerns me, as well as it should concern anyone who calls themselves a Christian. Why are so many young people leaving the church and why, for heaven’s sake, is there even a thing called “an atheist” church?
I think I may have a clue. Just today, I had a conversation with a dear Christian friend who told me she no longer votes. She is a wonderful person, but I was taken aback by her attitude. She sees both political parties as corrupt, and therefor doesn’t want to vote for either. I tried to convince her to vote anyway, even if it is a cast for the ‘lesser of two evils.’ She just chuckled at me, and said she used to think that way, too, but not only does she think neither party is worth her vote, she is convinced of voter fraud, saying she saw a YouTube video on how a computer counting machine was programmed to favor one party over the other. (I didn’t have the heart to correct her, but I am pretty sure that is just another one of those internet conspiracy theories. I honestly don’t think, if this was true, the losing party would put up with it without a fight. Someone would be on that fraud in some fashion is this was true.) All this to say is that my sincere Christian friend has a very negative attitude about life today, to the point of shrugging her shoulders as if she is powerless to do anything about it. She may feel like some Christians do when they proclaim, “It’s all going to burn anyway” in reference to the book of Revelation.
So, Sunday morning comes around and you have a choice: either go to an atheist church and hear how to celebrate the life you have today because it’s all you’ve got so make the most of it, or go to a Christian church and hear how you’re a sinner, the world is going to hell in a hand basket, and life as we know it is doomed to destruction (don’t get me wrong, as I know not all churches are like this; this is a stereotype, but it does exist). Hmmmm….. I think I can see why even some Christians are attending the atheist churches!
As a Bible-believing Christian myself, I do recognize I am a sinner in need of a Savior—absolutely—I also know that the Bible is full of stories where God asks His people to work with Him in restoring humanity to its original design. We are not to simply stand back and watch things get destroyed; we’re supposed to be part of the solution. We are called to bring light to the dark places of the world; we are called to be the salt, something that preserves and flavors. How can we do that if we keep our light hidden, and our salt is stuck in our jar of clay?
Eventually, the novelty of the atheistic church will fade, I believe, simply because another “feel-good” event is short lived. Without the living, breathing presence of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ preached, the spirit inside all of us (whether the atheist recognizes it or not) will thirst for the Living Water. However, if Christians don’t stop focusing on all the negative aspects of life, giving the younger generation growing up into the future nothing to hope for, our “feel-bad” campaign won’t bring life, either. There is a balance. We need to recognize our desperate need for redemption, and we need to take the good things that God has done in us through that redemptive work, and spread it outside the four church walls, bringing salt and light into the culture around us. If we simply “bury our talents,” how do you think that will be looked upon by God when He looks at the life we led as Christians in this world? Yes, we are “strangers in this world” and we will struggle, but part of that struggle is to be people who hope, who create, who impact the world in positive ways in whatever field God calls them to, be it science, the art, or yes, even politics.
Please don’t shrug your shoulders and stop trying to impact the world for Jesus. Knowing Him should make us the happiest people on the planet, celebrating life and all the good things He has given us. He has asked us to spread the good news, and that not only includes salvation, but hope of a life spent with Him bringing light into this world today—right now.