Fewer people are attending church these days, and the reason is not what you think.

The Pew Research Center dropped a bombshell yesterday. The center for the study of religion in American life released a new study based on a survey of 35,000 Americans, which finds that Christians have declined sharply as a share of the population while the number of religiously unaffiliated and other faiths have continued to grow.

Though some see good news in the study for Evangelicalism, I strongly disagree. Though historically evangelical denominations may have gained about 2 million members, that gain was purely from “religious switching.” Evangelicals as a percentage of the US population declined by about 1 percent. There is no positive spin on the decline of Christianity in America.

Detail of the church seats with Bibles

The Pew research mirrors other data on the decline of church attendance, so it’s not really news. Still, it begs the question: Why don’t people go to church?

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Consumer behavior among church attendees results from a value-driven approach to ministry based on a corporate model for the church. This mistaken ideology is the central problem in North American Christianity.

Church is now a commodity rather than a community, and members increasingly approach worship with a consumer mind-set. That should be self-evident to any church leader, but it’s easy enough to substantiate.

Value Sphere Definition Meaning Importance Worth And High Value

Consider these actual statements heard from church members and visitors—

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The Hoosier State is at the center of a national controversy because of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Gov. Mike Pence signed into law this week.

In part, the law provides that the government may not substantially burden a person’s right to practice their religion unless it is essential for a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive way of doing so.

cutting the wedding cake, focus on hands

It’s billed as a protection of religious freedom, and as a Hoosier and a pastor, I’m all for that.

But this law isn’t so much about religious freedom as about something that has become a symbol for the latest battle in our culture war—wedding cake.

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Heaven tourism books were pulled from LifeWay Christian Resources this week. The Christian retail giant will no longer carry titles like 90 Minutes in Heaven, Heaven Is for Real, and The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.

The D.l.moody Memorial Church In Chicago

The latter book caused a stir when its subject and coauthor, Alex Malarkey, admitted that he lied about having a vision of heaven as a 6-year-old.

So that’s that. Another Evangelical blockbuster bites the dust.

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A clock is something you can take apart, analyze, clean, improve, and put back together. If it works properly, it will produce the same result every time.

A cloud exists all around you, perceptible but intangible, ethereal yet powerful. It produces a different effect on nearly every person nearly every time they encounter it.

Clockwork Background

For decades we’ve treated the church as if it were a clock when it’s really a cloud. The result is a mechanized religion that defines spirituality in terms of voting records and a church that is more commodity than community, a product to be consumed.

How did this happen?

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One of the core activities of Christian spirituality is the daily pursuit of God through personal spiritual disciplines. For centuries, Christians have done this to become more aware of themselves and more in tune with God.

Zen Balancing Rocks o a Deck, New Zealand

But few Christians today practice these habits—which may account for the generally low level of personal spirituality in the church.

We have lively worship, lots of great activities, and strong opinions on public morals. Yet we often behave selfishly and with a sense of entitlement, as if we don’t know Jesus all that well.

Spiritual disciplines correct that. They expose sin, bring us to repentance, and open a clear channel for communication with God.

Here are seven disciplines you can try during Lent—or anytime.

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Readership of this blog grew dramatically in 2014. Overall traffic rose by more than 250 percent, and the number of unique readers climbed by more than 80 percent. Hopefully, that’s an indication that the posts are helpful and meaningful to a growing number of folk.

Top 10 Letterpress

Through the year I learned a couple of lessons about blogging. But my greatest insights are about the state of the church.

Here are my top 10 posts for 2014 and what I’ve learned from your responses.

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