The Largest Body of Professing Christians in America

Oct 28th, 2013 | By | Category: Blog Posts

The Largest Body of Professing Christians in America

In August I wrote a short post titled Why Evangelicals are Getting High. The goal of the post was to argue that a solid Reformed upbringing does not decrease the chances of conversion to Catholicism. Unintentionally, the post generated significant discussion about the trends within Christianity in America. Are more people leaving Catholicism for Protestantism or vice versa? Are those who leave predominantly nominal Catholics or are the well catechized leaving as well? Are Reformed Christians leaving for Catholicism in increasing numbers? If so, why? All of these questions are worth considering, but after a few months of reflection it occurred to me that the entire discussion ignored the largest group of professing Christians in America today.

According to the Pew Forum 78.4% of Americans are confessing Christians. Yet, according to Pew, only 29% of Americans go to Church on a regular basis. This means the largest body of confessing Christians in America (49%) are the non-Church goers. It may be easy to write this group off as nominal “Christmas and Easter Christians,” but I think such a dismissal ignores the common experience most of us have had while talking to those who don’t attend Church. Many of these non-Church goers have genuinely internalized the gospel. Many of them are fully conscious of the reality of sin and the truthfulness of God’s provision in Christ. I’ve even had seminary friends who don’t attend Church. They still set time aside on Sunday for prayer; perhaps listen to a John Piper sermon on i-tunes, perhaps rock out to some Derrick Webb, all habits that feel churchy enough without all the inconvenience.

  (© Bob O'Connor for The Wall Street Journal)

 (This late-19th-century Baptist church in Watertown, Mass is one of hundreds of historic churches accross the U.S. converted into condominiums)

I recently challenged a non-Church going friend about the issue. He responded by reminding me that all that really matters is Jesus. All the goods one may find at Church, he pointed out, he was still getting. Worship, solid preaching (Keller on i-tunes), prayer, Scripture reading, fellowship, and more, could be found elsewhere and often in much better quality. I realized I had little to argue back with when considering these five aspects of Christian nourishment often found on Sunday. But to be sure, there was one major exception.

The Eucharist. The Eucharist, from a Catholic perspective, cannot be recreated outside of the Catholic Mass. The Eucharist, from a Catholic perspective, is Jesus Christ himself. There is nowhere one can go to find a more immediate encounter with the risen Lord. With nothing left to appeal to my friend’s decision I found myself echoing his words. All that matters is Jesus…which is why I beg you to come back to Church, because that is where we find Him and partake of His own body and blood.

I am interested in presenting this question to our Reformed brothers; how do we get the 49% of professing Christians who do not attend Church back? Or does Church attendance not really matter after all? The Reformed tradition has always maintained the importance of Church membership, but, when pressed with the question of why it matters, how would this response differ from the Catholic response?

As I put forward this question to Reformed readers I can anticipate some responses by recalling how I processed this question as a Reformed Christian a few years ago. Perhaps I would have appealed to the rich language of WCF XXIX where believers “receive and feed upon, Christ crucified” in the sacrament. I believe I would have also appealed to the simple command in Scripture to not forsake the assembly (Hebrews 10:25). However, even as a Reformed believer I remember thinking these were weak arguments. First, there’s nothing in the Reformed dogma of the Lord’s Supper that suggests that the grace received through that particular sacrament cannot be found elsewhere through other means of grace. Secondly, the provision that only an ordained man can consecrate the Lord’s Supper seemed somewhat arbitrary in light of the rejection of Holy Orders as a sacrament. Put simply, Reformed theology provides no principled reason why my friend can’t consecrate grape juice and saltines in my living room.

What options are left? The Reformed believer conversing with his friend may be forced to realize that the non-Church goer often hears better sermons, reads more Scripture, has more time for prayer, can worship in their car and everywhere else, and has a very deep fellowship group. At that point the Reformed Christian can either appeal to the command to assemble (which may be dismissed as legalism) or finally, he may appeal to the Lord’s Supper. But if the Lord’s Supper is only offered once a month this appeal becomes difficult.  When pressed with why the Lord’s Supper has to happen at Church, with an ordained minister, the response gets even more complicated.

This post is not intended to gloss over the major problem Catholicism itself has as our Church continues to suffer from the loss of millions of parishioners just in the United States. The reason for the losses, however, as Fr. Barron explains often concern practice rather than doctrine. Watered down preaching and poor catechesis are often cited as the chief causes. The good news is that this is starting to change. Fr. Barron himself is an excellent example of the revival of dynamic and robustly biblical preaching within Catholicism. He is one who points us and the seminarians he trains to the fullness of Christ in the Eucharist.   Ultimately, I believe that only Christ alone, found in the Eucharist, can reverse the trend of staying home on Sunday.

14 comments
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  1. Hi Jeremy,

    Thanks for this post. I always marvel at Reformed folks who question the necessity of the public liturgy. Calvin, himself, dealt with this type in France and Geneva and condemned them harshly. In one text, I was particularly impressed by how he contrasts private reading of Scripture with the Public liturgy. He said:

    “They don’t have a single drop of Christianity. I am speaking of our armchair philosophers . . . . It is better not to be a Christian, they say, than to trot over to Geneva to have your ears stuffed with sermons and to use the sacraments like they do there. Can’t we read and pray to God on our own? Do we have to enter a temple to be taught, since each of us has the Scripture in our house? … As to their pride, which makes them think that sermons, public prayers, and the sacraments are superfluous, no other testimony is needed to excommunicate them and banish them from the Church of God. Thus, Saint Paul did not say the order our Lord established in his church was only for the rude and simple, but he makes it common for all, without exception. He ordained, he said, Apostles, Pastors, and Doctors, for the establishment of the Saints, for the edification of the body of Christ, until we all arrive in the unity of faith, in a perfect man, in the measure of the full age of Christ. Let us note well that he did not say that God left the Scripture for everyone to read, but that he instituted a government, that there are people to teach, and under that he includes all the rest [of the means]. [Calvini Opera 8:412]

    Thanks,

    David

  2. I’ve heard this since I was a child. If only everybody understood about the Eucharist… And yet, many of the unchurched have been churched at some point, and have partaken of the Eucharist. The sacraments are important, but consider- before you go to the church to get married, you are forced to go get a ‘marriage license’. It is via this license that all the things we are taught which shouldn’t be done are done. Marriages are torn asunder, for this license is no longer about people getting married but about divorce lawyers and courts getting access to people and their money.

    It would be harder to explain how the Eucharist is subverted, but I have no doubt that it is. Men can take a hard look at the Church and find it reasonable to believe they are better off out of it than within it, regardless of their degree of belief. I’ve no doubt this was done on purpose, at least in part, in the progressive attempt to secularize everything. Natural authorities have been undermined, and wherever possible, a committee has been set up. Upstarts and thieves justify their usurpation via congresses and elections. This wasn’t a good way to treat kings, even impertinent ones, nor is it a good way to treat fathers.

  3. Jeremy,

    I think that you and David have already mostly answered your questions. We need to be a practicing part of the church community, including being a part of worship on the Lord’s Day, because in that community and in that worship we receive graces that God has chosen to give in that way, and we ourselves contribute to the body as well. We receive the preaching of the Word by those appointed to that task. We receive the Lord’s Supper, administered by those appointed to administer it and in its appropriate setting. We join in the fellowship and worship of the people of God. Etc.

    One thing that might help here: One reason why we can’t just hang out in our living rooms and celebrate the Lord’s Supper is that the sacraments are meant to be dispensed in the context of the public church under the oversight of a properly-ordained minister of the gospel. In Reformed church government, not just anyone can decide, of themselves, to be a minister of the gospel. Such a person, under normal circumstances, must be properly ordained by a legal presbytery. It is schismatic for a person to simply start up a new church without going through proper channels of ordination (under ordinary circumstances), and such an act should not be sanctioned by Christians in the form of accepting as a minister a person who has done this. In short, there is such a thing as a legal minister of the gospel in contrast to an illegal one.

  4. At that point the Reformed Christian can either appeal to the command to assemble (which may be dismissed as legalism)

    Jeremy,

    If someone is entirely unconvinced as to the direct commands to assemble, or to the example in Scriptures of Christians assembling, my guess is that they are probably not about to listen to weightier matters concerning the efficacy of the Eucharist. I think you are right on track in the last sentence of paragraph two where you talked about “inconvenience.” The folks you describe are not showing up largely cuz they don’t want to deal with the messiness of interacting with other sinful human beings in the context of the church.

    I understand why someone might be drawn towards the Roman Catholic notion of the nature and efficacy of the sacraments, but then Reformed and Evangelical churches are full of folks who came out of Catholicism at least partly because all they saw in the Roman Catholic sacraments was empty ritual. Obviously that’s not the case for you, but I’m just not sure that I see the case for using the Roman Catholic understanding of the sacraments as an argument for church membership.

  5. Okay, okay. So I’ll be the one to bite, and be honest about this issue. I heard recently in a reformed church I was thinking of becoming a member of, where the pastor said “plugging in,” was crucial to living the gospel. If we’re not participating in a church on Sundays, we’re missing out on a piece of the gospel. Honestly as embarrassing as it is to say, when he said that I just kinda thought…whatever. I mean, what if I went to a church with only 4 people in it, would that work for him? Is that a church, or does it need at least 10 people to be an official church? If not, then why can’t I have church with my family at home and it be fine? Historical argument aside, scripturally I see nothing wrong with starting my own church at home.

    I see many other Protestants moving in this George barna, frank viola type of Christianity (Pagan Christianity was what got the ball rolling for me) I am my ultimate final authority, no pastor has authority over me. Hey it’s just intellectually honest, right? I think there must be an ultimate identifiable authority, or that authority belongs to everyone individually.

    To be honest this kind of reasoning is starting to bother me, and just can’t be right. This is why I am finding my way to sites like this, because I’m kind of tired of thinking that it all depends on me to find the TRUE version of Christianity. And according to some, if my Greek or Hebrew isn’t up to par, I might have the wrong intellectual reasoning and go to hell.

    Sorry went off topic a bit, but these things have been bothering me, and I’ve been in a very honest mood lately.

    Zeke

  6. Coming completely from outside any Christian tradition, it seems obvious that there can only be one Church, and that a visible one.

    The whole idea of Christ redeeming humanity relies on the unity of human kind as such as spelled out in the OT and Paul’s speaches in Acts, etc. and the necessity of a real, concrete “new humanity” in Christ is equally clear.

    It is quite painful for a convert with no “denominational” baggage to see how much confusion and angst the lack of this clarity among Catholics and others alike causes.

    But these “non-denoms” are quite simply drifting back to the basic Catholic state; there can indeed be no “denominations” unless there is only one “denomination” i.e. “universal” or “basic” Christianity (in Greek, it’s “Catholic”).

    Then setting up “your own” Assembly becomes logically meaningless anyhow. I think most Christians realise this at some point but prejudice and the usual list of other worries of the world hold most of us back from acting on it and seeking out the Church.

  7. Jeremy, you write:

    I realized I had little to argue back with when considering these five aspects of Christian nourishment often found on Sunday. But to be sure, there was one major exception. The Eucharist.

    But the eucharist is nothing without the local body of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16-17), and so your answer to your own question, “what are they missing?” is only penultimate. What those who miss Sunday worship can’t have is the local body of Christ. That’s ultimate.

    To see this, consider the case of an ordained priest in the RCC who finds himself all alone on a Sunday. Yet he performs the Eucharist, and per Catholic teaching he gets Christ. But has he, being apart from the body? Indeed he can’t, since being by himself, he is not the local body of Christ.

    You see, the eucharist can’t take place without the local body of Christ present: “Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper” (1Co 11:20, NKJ). Paul says nothing about priests and their attendance/non-attendance making the Lord’s Supper real. Instead, the Lord’s Supper is real when the Christians are gathered as one body. see: http://www.churchsonefoundation.com/the-local-body-of-christ/.

    At the most basic level. the RCC priest errs by thinking his ordination grants him special powers apart from the local body of Christ.

    Notice another feature of Pauline ecclesiology. When Paul writes to the church in Corinth, he calls them “the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27). Obviously Paul didn’t mean they were the universal body of Christ. Instead, the Corinthians Christians, all of them collected together on Sunday for worship, are the body of Christ.

    There are no qualifications in Paul’s words regarding ordained leaders. His reproof comes to them for failing to discern the local body of Christ.

    In 1 Cor. 11:29-31 Paul criticizes the Christians for their failure to act in concert with what in fact they are when gathered – the body of Christ. In Paul’s ecclesiology the local body is the concrete form of the body of Christ from which the universal can be understood (not vice-versa, as RC ecclesiology). He writes far more about the local body, in a single geographic place, than he does about the universal body of Christ.
    Your answer to your friend shows a trap we can all fall into –

    Put simply, Reformed theology provides no principled reason why my friend can’t consecrate grape juice and saltines in my living room.

    Not unless the Reformed go back to Scripture in 1 Cor. 11, as they, like you, are called to do. Then your friend’s practices are condemned. By an apostle.

    When pressed with why the Lord’s Supper has to happen at Church, with an ordained minister, the response gets even more complicated.

    Not really. Church worship is a response of obedience to Jesus Christ, who ordained through His holy apostles that every Sunday, all the members of the local body of Christ should gather together in one place. Notice how Paul assumes it to be the case among those who profess Christ:

    For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. (1Co 11:18-20, NKJ)

    Your use of Church (capital “C”) exposes an ecclesiological inconsistency. By capital “C” Church you mean the Roman Catholic Church. But the Eucharist can’t happen at the RC “Church” since it never gathers as one in one place (cf. 1 Cor. 11:20). The same is true of say, “The Presbyterian Church of America.” This makes the complication of an ordained minister moot.

    If you stick with a biblical ecclesiology you have no problem. The local body of Christ gathers and worship every Sunday.

    Your friends, then, who don’t gather with the body of Christ have a bigger problem than inconsistency. They reject the Christ who gathers His people together to worship Him every Lord’s Day.

    They are disobedient to one of the most basic elements of Christian discipleship (perhaps the largest), and prove themselves not to be regarded as Jesus’ disciples.

  8. Michael, (#4)

    Coming completely from outside any Christian tradition, it seems obvious that there can only be one Church, and that a visible one.

    Michael, have you ever seen the visible, capital “C” church?

  9. When I was Reformed, what kept me going back each Sunday were 2 things: The Lord’s Supper and the Church authority.
    It turned out my views on both of these were simply too Calvinistic for the modern Reformed Chuch I was in (conservative PCA). For one, the Supper was celebrated only once a month, and in a very Zwinglian manner, which was a constant insult to me for the clergy to deprive my family of that sacrament so often, and then glibly say that it would take to much time to do it every week. Not being called to ministry myself, I would have considered it schismatic to celebrate the Supper in my living room.
    Sure I could have stayed home and listened to a sermon online (although my former pastor is quite a powerhouse in his own right). But the point is obedience. scripture says to meet together, tradition shows it happened that way, and all the technology in the world does not replace human contact in the body of Christ. And discipline is ostensibly quite important in a Reformed church. My thinking was: how can discipline take place if the ones doing the discipline don’t have frequent contact with me to know when to bring the hammer down? Having said that there were many times where i did not attend on days when the Lord’s Supper was not being celebrated with a “what’s the point?” bad attitude.

    What I realised is I was wanting the Reformed church to do something it was unable to do. It could not be the arbiter of the Eucharist because at any point I could potentially feel a “call” from God to the ministry and leave or start my own church, in which case there would then be 2 bodies celebrating 1 Eucharist, something scripturally impossible. This tail wags the dog theology gave me shivers of fear to think of what I was leading my children into. In search of discipline, I was getting merely a veneer of it, which is actually more dangerous than none at all. If I am functionally more authoritative in determining what scripture means, then I am the authority.
    Of cousre this reliving of the Reformation in my own life lead me to the Catholic Church. Now the discipline I sought as a Reformed believer is actually there. 2000 years of it and still alive today, kicking me where it hurts daily… like I know it should.

    David Meyer

  10. Ted, (re: #7)

    But the eucharist is nothing without the local body of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16-17),

    One problem with that claim is that nothing those verses say logically entails that conclusion.

    and so your answer to your own question, “what are they missing?” is only penultimate. What those who miss Sunday worship can’t have is the local body of Christ.

    Unless hanging out with fellow Christians any time of the week is having the “local body of Christ.”

    To see this, consider the case of an ordained priest in the RCC who finds himself all alone on a Sunday. Yet he performs the Eucharist, and per Catholic teaching he gets Christ. But has he, being apart from the body? Indeed he can’t, since being by himself, he is not the local body of Christ.

    This argument begs the question by presupposing that a priest can receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist only when the entire (or at least any percentage greater than 100/p, where p is the number of local Christians) of the local body of Christ is present. But that presupposition is not logically entailed by any passage of Scripture.

    You see, the eucharist can’t take place without the local body of Christ present: “Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper” (1Co 11:20, NKJ).

    That verse does not entail that a priest cannot celebrate the Eucharist by himself.

    Paul says nothing about priests and their attendance/non-attendance making the Lord’s Supper real.

    That also does not entail that a priest cannot celebrate the Eucharist by himself.

    Instead, the Lord’s Supper is real when the Christians are gathered as one body.

    That’s claim presupposes what is in question.

    At the most basic level. the RCC priest errs by thinking his ordination grants him special powers apart from the local body of Christ.

    That too is a question-begging claim, because in the Catholic paradigm, Holy Orders have been handed down from the Apostles themselves.

    Notice another feature of Pauline ecclesiology. When Paul writes to the church in Corinth, he calls them “the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27). Obviously Paul didn’t mean they were the universal body of Christ. Instead, the Corinthians Christians, all of them collected together on Sunday for worship, are the body of Christ.

    That’s compatible with everything Jeremy says in his post.

    There are no qualifications in Paul’s words regarding ordained leaders.

    That too is compatible with everything Jeremy has said.

    His reproof comes to them for failing to discern the local body of Christ.

    Except St. Paul never says “local” there. That’s your interpretation, which you are treating as Scripture itself.

    In 1 Cor. 11:29-31 Paul criticizes the Christians for their failure to act in concert with what in fact they are when gathered – the body of Christ.

    That too is your interpretation of the passage, and a question-begging interpretation as well.

    In Paul’s ecclesiology the local body is the concrete form of the body of Christ from which the universal can be understood (not vice-versa, as RC ecclesiology).

    Catholic ecclesiology does not claim that the universal cannot be understood through the local.

    Not unless the Reformed go back to Scripture in 1 Cor. 11, as they, like you, are called to do. Then your friend’s practices are condemned. By an apostle.

    The problem with that claim is that nothing those verses say logically entails that conclusion. Only by importing interpretive assumptions to the text does one arrive at your conclusion. And that’s Jeremy’s point, that the text itself does not require Sunday church.

    Notice how Paul assumes it to be the case among those who profess Christ: For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. (1Co 11:18-20, NKJ)

    He also assumes head-coverings to be the case. You are reasoning from “they do x” to “x is normative now.” And without an authoritative Tradition, that sort of conclusion does not follow.

    By capital “C” Church you mean the Roman Catholic Church. But the Eucharist can’t happen at the RC “Church” since it never gathers as one in one place (cf. 1 Cor. 11:20).

    That argument is based on your own interpretation of 1 Cor. 11:20. It does not follow necessarily from the words themselves. And in the Catholic paradigm, that passage does not have that meaning.

    They are disobedient to one of the most basic elements of Christian discipleship (perhaps the largest), and prove themselves not to be regarded as Jesus’ disciples.

    Again, the problem here is that this conclusion is based on your interpretation of a passage, an interpretation that is not entailed by the words themselves. The persons Jeremy refers to presumably hold a different interpretation, and theirs is no less authoritative than is yours. But you are treating your interpretation as though it is normative and authoritative, and not even an interpretation at all, let alone a non-authoritative interpretation. The paradigm survives only so long as that performative contradiction goes unnoticed: so long as no one notices that interpretations are being treated as the text itself, or that within a paradigm in which there is said to be no interpretive authority, non-authoritative interpretations are being treated as authoritative interpretations, and each speaker’s non-authoritative interpretation is being presumed to be more authoritative than the interpretations of all those to whom he is speaking. As soon as one realizes these contradictions, and backs away to the fact of a pervasive pluralism of equally non-authoritative interpretations, the intrinsic deficiency of the paradigm becomes apparent.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  11. Thanks for sharing Jeremy. I am impressed that you can find the time to write, much less with this type of quality.

    I have been thinking about the fellowship that you discuss in your piece, and how it is different from the Church community. One of the large differences between the two is that fellowship outside of a church allows one to pick and choose who you accept into that fellowship, and therefore allows one to gravitate toward like-minded people with similar styles, personalities, and thoughts. A church on the other hand, is by its nature welcoming to everyone, regardless of class and ideological constraints; it forces us to concentrate on Jesus’ message even if we may feel uncomfortable with other people’s social status or their ideology. This is sort of the point: in anthropological terms, it serves as a leveling function within society; for that one hour or two, all are equal sinners in the eyes of God. The danger of creating fellowships outside of Church is that this openness in most instances is probably missing due to the social nature of humans and their tendency to congregate into groups of minimal potential conflict.

    Having said this, I saw this today, which throws into question my whole point. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2013/10/one-stop-catholic-drive-thru.html

    Sigh!

    Peace, Brian

  12. Bryan (#10),

    Regarding 1 Cor. 10:16-17, you wrote,

    One problem with that claim is that nothing those verses say logically entails that conclusion.

    Allow me to capitalize the 1st person plural “we” to show that that the eucharist is nothing without the local body of Christ:

    “Is not the cup of blessing which WE bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which WE break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, WE who are many are one body; for WE all partake of the one bread” (1Co 10:16-17).

    Paul’s emphasis falls on the communal nature of the eucharist, tying the physical body of Christ to the local body of Christians.

    It really shouldn’t be too hard to affirm what is obvious – that professing Christians who don’t go to Sunday worship miss out on the local body of Christ – the group that remembers the Lord’s Supper. They disobediently chose themselves, not Christ’s people. As I said, the eucharist is penultimate, for it is nothing apart from them.

  13. For the un-churched, some Protestants have created a “church for people that don’t like church”.

    “Verve – Church for People that Don’t Like Church”

    http://vivalaverve.org/

    “Verve is church minus religious crap.”

    http://vimeo.com/74594578?width=600&height=338&autoplay=1

    I checked out Verve on a Monday night, which is located in an industrial area not far from where the big casinos are located on the Las Vegas Strip. Walking into the room where the service (?) is held at Verve, is like walking into a night club. Center stage is a set of drums, and the night begins with musicians playing some rock style praise music. I enjoyed the music.

    There are no pews or kneelers, stained glass windows, statues or stuff that would make you think that you are in a church. Rather, the place has couches and comfortable chairs and is decorated like a youth orientated Vegas style night club. There is a bar in the back of the room (the Velcro Bar). No alcohol at the bar, but one can get a cup of coffee, and sit and talk to the man behind the bar, if that is what he or she wants to do.

    I actually enjoyed the Monday night service, and I thought that the preaching about Joseph in the Book of Genesis was quite good. The preaching was part of a series about how to know God’s will for one’ life.

    The whole experience was not that different that what happens in the Mariners Church that is near where I live in California, except that Verve has taken even more steps to make their “church” really seem like a club. Which makes sense to me, because I see Protestant churches not as real churches, but as something more akin to prayer clubs that have been founded by various men and women. In these Protestant “prayer clubs” one can encounter Jesus, but the “communion” they receive is not really the Eucharist (which is why these man founded prayer clubs are not real churches).

    At Verve, there is no Liturgy of the Eucharist, (there is no liturgy at all) but one is free to go to a table and get a little cup of grape juice and a small cracker, (which is called getting communion at Verve). All in all, the understanding of communion at Verve is not that different from the “Lord’s Supper” as it is practiced in a Southern Baptist Church.

  14. I think the biggest problem amongst evangelicals not attending church is the shallowness of the what amounts to evangelical liturgy. I know of a few PCA churches which are now having communion weekly, and one I know of refers to it as the eucharist.

    But, even in reformed evangelical churches, the liturgy has been reduced to the “sermon sandwich.” Praise music – sermon – more praise music. Throw in communion on the first Sunday of every month, and there you have it.

    Men are dropping like flies because of this. We are all about being “missional” of course. But along the way, we seemed to have forgotten that corporate worship is not about love-bombing the newcomer. There’s also an unspoken expectation that, to be missional, we need to put on our happy faces.

    I have become increasingly uncomfortable “worshiping” in an atmosphere of forced happiness. I am struggling greatly at this point in my life, and it is incongruent to be singing sappy, shallow songs – all about my “personal relationship” with Jesus.

    I’ve been to enough Masses to know that Catholics just seem to suffer better, or at least in a more realistic way.
    Few of my evangelical brethren are willing to accept that suffering is, and always will be, part of the deal.

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