Oregon’s “Unchurched” State: The solution

February 14, 2013

I just ran across an article in the Oregonian newspaper that discusses the “unchurched” state we live in here in Oregon.  The article can be found here: Oregon Not Quite Most Unchurched State.

In the article a recent Gallup poll is quoted from which shows Oregon as only 2% higher “churched” than the last place states.  See Gallup Poll here.

Now right from the start I want to make it very clear, I do not think that going to church makes you a “better Christian” or even “more religious”.  It doesn’t make one a “Christian” period.  What struck me most painfully in the article was, as usual, the comments after the article.  Here are some of the “highlights”:

A lot of people came to Oregon to escape the insane adherence to a fantasy that is no more a huge charade imposed by a ruling class to keep the slaves in line. “we can’t pay you anything, we may work you to death, but you’ll get your reward in heaven.”

Come on Oregonians. We used to win this thing. Quit going to church to help the state. I know it’s hard now that football is over for the season. But suck it up, worship at the church of the NBA, or hell, you could always watch golf, think of it as purgatory. The new Catholic guy came here because he thought we were ‘unchurched’. Let’s show him what that really means. Support your Oregon heritage.

Doggone, Oregonians are smarter than I thought…

Come to Oregon, you persecuted unbelievers living in Red States! You won’t have to hide your non-belief here, and you won’t have to suck up to believers in order to advance in your job (or even keep it). You won’t have to tolerate prayers before school board or city hall meetings, or pretend that God created the universe 6,000 years ago. In short, you’re free to think for yourself!!

Makes me proud to be an Oregonian. If we try harder, maybe we can be Number 1.

Many Oregonians moved here to try an escape from the hypocrisy we see from many ‘Churches’. The communal feeling in many areas shows a level of spirituality that you won’t find just anywhere, it’s very refreshing. So even though they don’t contribute to the ‘establishment’s’ and the systemic feed to the Masonry, until more Churches start showing some consistency and the Word and how it relates to Earth and Science the trend will continue. Look what our younger generations have witnessed: those in positions of power within many Religions that have used that power as a weapon of abuse and entitlement.

Folks, read “God is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens. He brilliantly exposed how contrived and man-made Christianity is. It’s a fantastic read.

What makes me really sad about these comments is how serious the subject is, yet how comical it seems to be to many.  I’m not talking about “church” I’m talking about the greatest gift ever given to anyone: The FREE gift of Salvation from a God who loves His creation SO much that He sent His son to die for that creation.  Man.  How does going to church play into this?  It’s hard to explain in writing but I’ll try.

When you REALLY love someone, don’t you want to spend every waking moment with them?  Remember when you first fell in love with that person?  You couldn’t get enough of them.  That’s how my relationship with God is.  I can’t wait to be with Him.  I want to talk to Him, listen to Him (through His Word, his still small voice and His church), I want to be with the people who love Him too!  The only place where I get all of that and more is……Church!

Now I can’t speak for ALL churches as I can only go to one at a time, but, I LOVE church.  I can’t wait to get through the week to get to Sunday.  I get up early on Sunday just to get myself ready to get to church.  I can’t wait to see my wonderful friends and brothers and sisters in Christ.  I can’t wait to sing songs of praise, to pray, to hear His Word brought to me by my pastor.  When someone once asked me on a beautiful summer day, “why would you waste a day like this one on an hour or two in a church?”  Like I just said, it’s hard to convey that without having the experience.

I know MANY people have been burned by churches.  Just like any other place in the world, there are bad people.  Bad people, those who aren’t really at church for the reasons I’ve listed, but come out of some sense of “duty” or because “my wife made me go”.  There’s even those who come to actually BE negative and find something wrong.  Those folks can spoil a church experience.  Don’t let them!

God can be experienced ANYWHERE don’t get me wrong.  He is in everything as He created everything, but, he also, in His great wisdom, created the Church for a reason: He loves to hear the worship of His people.  He loves to be in the midst of the church by His Holy Spirit.  He loves to do miracles in His church, he loves to meet needs in His church and so much more.  I haven’t enough words to type to tell you if you’ve never experienced it like I have.

If your church doesn’t sound like what I’ve described?  Try two things: 1 – Check your heart and your motives for going to church, make sure they are pure and that you are looking for God.
2 – Find another church.  Ask a friend who seems to be satisfied with their church experience.  If you live near Salem, Oregon, ask me, I’ll tell you of a great one!

I also call on any pastor who reads this blog article: Preach the Gospel!  Church is NOT a country club.  It is not your kingdom.  It is not a “feel good” only house but it is rather a hospital for God’s people from all walks of life who are hurt and bleeding.  Stop preaching social gospel and preach what you were called to preach: Matthew 28:18-20.  THAT is the only sermon you need to give EVER!  Just spend the time you need in God’s Word asking Him how to give you that sermon in a different light each week.  He will never fail you.  The lost are out there, the “fields are ripe for the harvest” is your church “harvesting”?  If your church attendance is down, then the article that started this is very very appropriate for you Pastors.  It’s not that you need to change the way you “do church” it’s that there is a state full of hurting people who need to know how much God loves them.  What are you doing to reach them?  Want to grow your church, see the pews/chairs filled?  Go out and call them in because there IS a Heaven to be gained and a Hell to be shunned and MOST of the good people of Oregon are in deep trouble and you know, God does not want that “one should perish”!  See also Luke 14:16-24.  They are out there, just bring them in!

PS: after further reflection, a similar topic: Missions.

WHY oh why do the churches spend gazillions of money on overseas missions?  I know we are to reach the lost everywhere, but, as you can clearly see, the Mission field is RIGHT HERE in Oregon.  Why don’t we in the churches of Oregon spend the dollars and the man hours on what could be the biggest mission field in the world?  Just a thought.

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12 Responses to Oregon’s “Unchurched” State: The solution

  • Jairus says:

    Well said Bill and I hope you spend a little time talking about this today. Please do not be afraid of “preaching from your pulpit” because it is one of the main reasons I listen.

    Just a thought…. after the Rapture, there will be a huge void in this country. The un-churched states will be the most highly populated. The Bible belt emptied out, will lead to huge food shortages and much chaos understandably.
    After the rapture many eyes will be also be opened. So it behooves us to leave behind sign posts for those who are looking for answers.

    Your friend, J

  • Bill Post says:

    Right on Jairus! There will be that ONE more chance but man I don’t want anyone to have to live through that horrible time. You think it’s bad now? Ha!

  • Jairus says:

    Have you ever dreamed of being a missionary? Well… guess we Christians here in Oregon… ARE!
    We’re in the belly of the beast my friend.

  • Bill Post says:

    Ooo Ooo! Jairus, you just reminded me of something else I had wanted to say in my article…..gotta go edit it!

  • The Professor says:

    I’m guessing the “edit” was the last paragraph? I would have thought, given the title of your post, that missions would have been center stage. Having been involved with several “Bible believing, Bible preaching” churches here, I can say there’s plenty of happy people in them, happily living in their “Christian” bubble. I don’t think the problem is people not being happy in their church. I think the problem is people BEING happy in church, contentedly coming on Sundays and Wednesdays and getting together with other people in the church, listening to Christian radio, reading Christian books, and never going out into the real culture of Oregon. Of all the churches I have gone to since I moved here in ’98, the only one that did local missions work (through charitable programs, I might add) was the evil, liberal, Episcopal church. I know there are other churches in town doing this, but not enough, apparently, to make even a dent.
    Until Christians start looking outside their comfy little subculture and start actually evangelizing, Oregon will continue to decline in the number of Christians.

  • Dave says:

    What are we, as Christians, doing to reach beyond the walls of a building? How many of us talk to our neighbors, to show them that Jesus loves and cares about them? Does our life reflect who Jesus is?

  • Cody says:

    Good writeup Bill, my only suggestion on this post is to quote better the comments from the site. I thought you said some of those atrocities but they were actually comments from Oregon Live. God bless you Bill in all that you do! I am from Salem but now I am a missionary down in Costa RIca teaching English in a church. I have called into your show a few times in recent years. Thank you for standing up for what is right, in the name of Jesus!

  • Hayley says:

    Bill, LOVED the post! The comments (that you wrote about) hurt because they stand there saying “You wont be forced to deal with *blah, blah, blah*” but they are trying for force us to stop. If you don’t want to pray, then don’t, but quietly wait for others who care to.

    I went to a Catholic school for my freshman year and I am not Catholic. When communion was offered I sat quietly in my seat, was never rude, simply waiting for the next step. I never cried out against anyone. I never said, “I’m LDS and I don’t participate so you need to respect that and stop!” I never even thought to do that! And I was 14 and understood it.

    But I think that attitude is why many don’t become missionaries, they are afraid of the angry and rude people that will attack them and their faith. Our Lord is someone precious to us, so hearing Him called “The great sky wizard, haha!” hurts deeply.

    So I think we should as individuals and churches, work on building up our faith and love of our fellow man, so those things hurt less and we can forgive more. We need be sure we are sharing Christ’s gospel because we love others and want them to know God’s love and not because we want to meet some quota.

  • Russell Clum says:

    Bill, I linked to your post from a friend on FB. The article in the Oregonian is an interesting satire that doesn’t surprise me one bit. I appreciate your willingness to wrestle with and comment on the topic. From the sounds of it, this line of thinking doesn’t surprise you either. As a pastor in Boise soon to be a church planter (next month) in NE Portland, I have a few thoughts on your response.

    First, I don’t think I’m on the same page as you when it comes to church attendance or what happens Sunday mornings. Like you said, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. So the gathering is not the identifying mark of following Jesus. Rather, we ARE the church. The people. The community of Christ followers. You know this, yet you’re still falling into the language and theology that something mystical or magical happens at the building we gather in on Sundays. That’s temple thinking. If something amazing is going to happen, it’s going to happen when the temple gathers together…whether it’s Sunday morning or Tuesday afternoon. Whether it’s two people or 2000 people. Church isn’t a hospital. The people of God are avenues of God’s healing grace and redemption. The community is healing, not the event or the location. Relationships between people who carry the Gospel (verbally and practically) and those who don’t are the means by which God has chosen to enact Matt. 28:19-20.

    Second, be careful when you say God is in his creation since he created it. That’s just not biblical. It’s a heresy called panentheism that has been identified as heretical for over 1800 years.

    Third, does it make a person a bad person to be at church for the ‘wrong’ reasons? Weren’t we all on the outside of Christ at one time? When you came into contact with the Gospel were you a bad person…I mean thoroughly bad? 100% bad? Does someone who shows up at your worship service because his wife asked him to come lack the image of God imprinted on their very personhood? Oversimplifying the motives of people for showing up on a Sunday and then categorizing them as bad is entirely unhelpful and unfair. It simply allows us to label people so that we can marginalize them and dismiss them…which is the opposite of what you’re proposing, that we actually invite people into our communities. Inversely, it makes it sound like those who are in the church for the ‘right’ reasons are good people. 100% good? Really? Certainly motives are important, but be careful how you label people. We’re all in a process of moving increasingly toward Jesus.

    Fourth, church growth and size are not always the best indicator of church health or movement of the Holy Spirit. The LDS church has shown it’s possible to grow a church without the Holy Spirit. I know of many vibrant, solid, dynamic, exciting yet small, overlooked, and under-appreciated ministries that aren’t growing like Willow Creek or Saddleback. Jesus understood the value of reaching the masses widely and seeking a few deeply. In the end, it was the few that remained faithful after the bread ran out. It doesn’t mean we don’t need large churches, but it also doesn’t mean that we don’t need small, faithful churches. As a pastor at a church of almost 3000, I can tell you from my experience that we’re not winning 100% of our metro area. We need a wide variety of churches, even those who are growing slower than us, in order to reach as many as possible. Your closing thoughts seem to discredit the smaller, faithful churches.

    Just some thoughts on the topic. Again, I appreciate your willingness to wrestle deeply with some tough issues. I also appreciate the fact that we’re on the same team moving toward the same goals. May we learn from each other and stimulate each other on to a richer life in Jesus that leads more people to him.

    • Jairus says:

      Russell,
      While I agree with you on the precise definition of what constitutes “the church”, I believe in Bill’s post, his round-about definition makes more sense to the common listener and blogger in this day and age.

      But I cannot help thinking that your post has a certain ring of condescension hovering around it. Makes me wonder about the flock you tend. What church is that again?

      J

      • Russell Clum says:

        Jairus,

        There certainly is a ring of critique in my reply. Critique is the tool of learners and growers. Simple, patronizing back-patting and acceptance of someone because of their position in our sub-culture isn’t helpful. As humble learners, we all need people around us critiquing our thoughts and suppositions. If Bill really is a learner (and it seems like he is) and is trying to wrestle with the things it sounds like he’s trying to wrestle with, then he should be open to stimulating dialogue, particularly if he’s wrestling in the open forum of radio and the interwebs.

        I don’t have any ego at stake in this. I thought the topic was provocative and timely. My role in ministry doesn’t seem very consequential, but I’m the Associate Pastor of Preaching at Eagle Christian Church, in Eagle, Idaho, a suburb of Boise, Idaho. I’ve been on the pastoral team here for almost nine years and this year my wife and I are being sent to NE Portland to start a new church there. It’s curious that you would make assumptions about the flock I serve when you don’t know them, our context, our ministry, or me for that matter. Like I said, we’re just trying to better understand the Good News and what it compels us to do and be.

        One more thought, simply because something is easier to understand doesn’t make it better. Instead of taking a more round-about explanation of the church, wouldn’t we do better to be more precise and get better at articulating it? Our theology, both what we think and what we speak, inform how we live. If we speak like the church is a building and a place to attend, then we’ll live that way. If we speak like the church is a holy community of people, then maybe we’ll live that way.

        R

  • Shula Quiller says:

    Bill , thank you for your show and I am a daily listener . I greatly fear that the void of Christianity is being filled ( albeit only in metropolitan areas is this evident ) by Islam . On a recent visit to the Beaverton library , I was given a carnation with a card attached by a man passing them out to women entering the library . Upon reading the header on the card , “Mohammed is Merciful” I quickly deposited flower & card in the garbage can . On the way out from the library the man offered me a flower again and this time I refused . It was sad to observe a young couple take a flower after me and comment on how nice the gesture was and that “all religions have their extremists ” , etc . As a former resident of Washington county I am alarmed at the growing number of muslims there and believe acts like this at the library are more insidious than the bombings on 9-11 .
    Shula

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