The Top 10 Obstacles to “Church” in Seattle.
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Pastor Adam Sinnett
Over the last six months I’ve spent considerable time in the city, speaking with neighbors, baristas, Real Change-sellers, grocery store clerks, artists, street musicians, lawyers, other pastors, and business professionals. One question that I nearly always ask in some form is, “What do you think are the primary obstacles to the Christian Church in Seattle?” It has been a fascinating exercise and deeply telling. One of the more interesting observations is that Christians tend to blame “secularism” or “postmodernism” for the decline of the Church, while those who don’t follow Christ tend to blame Christians themselves. Therefore, in light of this, I’ve compiled the following list of the top ten obstacles to the Christian Church in Seattle, according to my unofficial poll of Seattle. I’m using “Church” in its broadest meaning. Nothing surprising here, unfortunately.
“The Christian Church is ___________.”
This was, by far, the top response. Seattle seems to have noted an observable disconnect between belief and the behavior of the Church. The inconsistency leads many to dismiss the Church.
The Church is also seen as irrelevant, having little to do with the rest of life. The Church and its beliefs are seen as having little connection with the every day; though there may be some value for the life to come. Generally speaking, the Church is not cool.
Many noted the self-righteous flavor of the Church and those within. There is a perception that the Church positions itself as morally and spiritually superior, and in so doing deepens the irrelevance noted above.
Relatedly, many feel judged by the Church and therefore unwelcome. I’ve met no one who claims sinlessness. Most clearly understand their sin, yet the perceived judgment from the Church makes it an unlikely place to go for relief from their guilt.
Some noted they felt the Church was cold, sterile, unloving and more concerned with its own self-preservation than genuinely and sacrificially loving the city. Many felt they need to belong to the Church in order to be loved by the Church.
Similar to above, the Church was also described as unfriendly. Those who are part of the Church seem to devote the majority of their time to the Church, leaving little time for others who are not.
The Church is also described as being unsympathetic to the real, genuine struggles of people. The Church is viewed as having quick, superficial answers, but fails to genuinely relate to where people are.
Because of its irrelevance, self-righteousness and general lack of friendliness the Church is also seen as boring. The Church is not viewed as a place of joy, vibrancy and life.
The idea of Church is seen as irrelevant because it is viewed as impractical. The teaching and life of the Church is seen as being of little practical use. Some mentioned that while what the Church believes may be true, it doesn’t appear to work (see point #1).
Some noted that the Church is enslaving with all of its rules and regulations, rather than freeing and liberating. Many viewed the Church as restrictive and life-taking, rather than life-giving.
Together, these form a substantial obstacle to the idea of “Church” in Seattle. Its no wonder Seattle has become a refuge for those seeking to escape it. Whether or not these are misconceptions or excuses, we should view them as genuine obstacles that must be addressed, repented of and deconstructed. The Church described above is not the Church Jesus came to establish. During his earthly ministry, Jesus was “accused” of being a friend of sinners. The moral and spiritual outcast enjoyed his presence, even though he had hard things to say. If we’re following the Jesus of the Bible, this must increasingly become true of us. The Church of Jesus Christ is intended to be a people dedicated to truth and grace, holiness and mercy, creativity and beauty, service and sacrifice, love and joy, passion and relevance (after all, Jesus is reality (Col 1:15-20).
Our hope, as Downtown Cornerstone, is to be part of changing this tide in Seattle for His glory, our ultimate joy and the good of this city. Would you like to join us?