When I was a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church there are a lot of things that just didn’t click with me. Since coming out as bisexual and finding myself in a more progressive space, a lot has become clear.
The cold reality is that most people just don’t care about church that much. When I was a pastor, there was a subtle influence to think of people as invested in the church but maybe lacking some degree of inspiration.
Pastors might talk about pew warmers with a casual hint of disdain and be frustrated that people aren’t more dedicated. There was always for me a sense that these people feel that perhaps they know they should be more dedicated. Now I realize most people don’t even think they should be involved more. Most people don’t care about evangelism or church rules. They get something out of a loose affiliation, but not that much.
The biggest eye opener on this for me was how dramatically different people talked to me once I was no longer a pastor. When I was a pastor, in all my conversations people would pretend to care. When I stopped being a pastor they suddenly spoke very differently. I realized there were huge portions of the teachings of the church that a lot of people just plain ignore because they don’t believe them at all.
I should have known this before. Research has been indicating for years that larger and larger percentages of church members don’t believe basic Christian doctrine like the divinity of Christ, abstinence until marriage, and anti-LGBT+ theology. Those numbers are only going up. In the Adventist church you can add Sabbath keeping, abstaining from alcohol, and prophetic interpretation to the list.
This is the biggest problem of the church. Even though many people stay in the pews for one reason or another, their hearts really aren’t in it. Churches are losing the allegiance of its own members, but because many of them attend, and many of them give lip service to the pastors, the pastors don’t realize it.
People don’t need a revival, because the problem isn’t that they are lacking energy or Spirit. They need a church they can believe in.