PARIS, Ky. (BNc) by Paul Holland — “Church without God.” Thus reads the title of an article from the Lexington Herald-Leader. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? But it seems that hundreds, if not thousands, of folks have decided that they—although atheists—miss many things about “church,” and they want those things back.
The “godless church” started—where else?—in Great Britain by two comedians, appropriately enough. The article focuses on such an assembly in Los Angeles not long ago. There were 400 present at that assembly. They sat through an hour of “rousing music, an inspirational sermon, a reading and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.” Some of the songs they sang? “Lean on Me” and “Here Comes the Sun.”
But what begins in California usually does not stay in California. There are godless churches popping up all over the states, in San Diego, Nashville, and New York. The two funny men (see Psalm 2:4) who started it are going on a fund-raising tour to raise money to start more churches. Their target is $800,000.
Many, if not most, of these people grew up going to some church. But they miss many aspects of it. Singing “awesome songs,” or listening to “talks,” or meditating on how one can improve. The main thing, it seems to me, from reading the article is that they miss their “community.” More on that in a moment.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life last year made headlines noting that the number of “unaffiliated” religious people grew from 15 to 20 percent of the American population. These are not necessarily atheists. They just want to be “spiritual” without being “religious.” But, again, they miss “community.”
These atheistic church-goers, according to the report, are charitable, good people, good citizens, but they have a bad reputation because of militant atheists. Now, they want to make a presence for themselves and show Christians that they are not such bad people. They even took up a contribution in cardboard boxes. (So even atheists have to take up collections!)
The atheists are not without their critics even in the atheistic community. One man said, “The idea that you’re building an entire organization based on what you don’t believe, to me, sounds like an offense against sensibility.”
I believe he has a point. He also says, “There’s something not OK with appropriating all of this religious language, imagery and ritual for atheism.” Yet that is not unlike most denominational churches that utilize biblical terminology and phrases, but have completely redefined them to such an extent that Peter or Paul would not recognize them.
[pullquote]We may all be on Facebook but we don’t see many faces.[/pullquote]So, what is there to glean from these atheistic worshipers? The main point I gained is that mankind is designed (ergo, we have a Designer!) to associate with one another, to have fellowship. Three times in this short article the atheists talked about wanting to be together in a community. That’s what people are missing today. We may all be on Facebook but we don’t see many faces. Our society is connected now more than ever but we are also more isolated than ever.
[pullquote]The disconnected, disjointed society can be used to our advantage in evangelism.[/pullquote]The disconnected, disjointed society in which we live actually can be used to our advantage as Christians in our evangelism.
The church is a community. God calls us into fellowship with Him through Christ, 1Co 1:9. The psalmist wrote, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in” 27:10.
Don’t be intimidated by the atheist church. Instead, invite those who need community to find community with us!
Randal and his wife Vicki have lived and worked in Brazil since Nov. 1984. They have three married children and six grandchildren. He sometimes writes “7 Points.” http://randal.us