Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore


by Thom & Joani Schultz


Group Publishing


Reader Appeal: Adults / Church Leaders


Genre: Church Leadership


PopFam Rating: A


Is the modern American church broken? And can it be fixed with a Starbucks-style makeover? Those are the questions you'll be asked to face if you dare to open Thom & Joani Schultz's newest book, Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore. Or, as the Schultz's put it:


"What if, instead of the church being like a theater, a police station, or a seminary, it was more like a coffeehouse?"


It's an interesting, and challenging question. And the authors are definitely up to the challenge, dealing with it in depth, with thoughtfulness and a spirit of humility. It seems they are genuinely interested in being part of the effort to fix our broken churches, and this book is their plan for how to do that.


The first three chapters of Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore lay out the problem articulated in the title. If you thought that maybe the Schultz's were exaggerating for effect with the title wording, well you're wrong. As the stories and statistics in these early pages clearly show, people are abandoning American churches at an alarming rate—and Christians themselves are a significant part of those numbers. As a result, every year more than 4,000 churches close their doors. Those houses of worship aren't missed because, surprise, nobody really wants to go to church anymore.


Thom & Joani Schultz don't leave us hanging with just the problem, though. As they say repeatedly, "Remember, we love the church." And so chapters four through 13 give their plan for reinvigorating America's churches through, yes, a coffee-shop approach to ministry. From their perspective, four "acts of love" are necessary for all churches to reverse the current downward trends in American church attendance. They are:


1) Radical Hospitality


2) Fearless Conversation


3) Genuine Humility


4) Divine Anticipation


What do those terms really mean, and how are they lived out in your local church—or in other churches across the nation? That's what you'll discover as you read through the rest of this book. And you'll hear stories of the Schultz's innovative Lifetree Cafe ministry that is trying this new approach as a means to bring people closer to Jesus.


I think, for me, the section that resonated most was the two chapters dealing with "Fearless Conversation." Maybe that's because I'm often bored by the lecture format of our modern sermon factories and video curriculum drones. And yes, I know that Paul and Jesus and Peter and all the others employed a similar lecture format in their methodology for spreading God's word. I don't have a problem with lecture as a means of teaching the Bible; I have a problem with lecture as the ONLY means of teaching the Bible, and I think a church that works to incorporate "Fearless Conversation" alongside the more traditional sermon/lecture will go a long way toward helping people (like me) grow in faith and grow closer to Jesus. My two cents. So how do you do that? Well, you'll find ideas in this book. You'll also find many many real-life stories, unique perspectives on everyday experiences, and even some pretty cool photography culled from the Schultz's world travels and church tours.


Now, of course, this book is not perfect. For instance, I found the teen-magazine-style interior design to be a little overdone and distracting (you'll see what I mean when you look at a sample chapter). There's no real reason to present the word "ouch!" (or hundreds of others similar statements) in a gigantic font. Also, so-called "sidebars" that take up 3/4 of a page feel intrusive rather than instructive—especially when they're thrust at the reader on back-to-back pages and inserted an overwhelming number of times through the book. That kind of visual overkill may prompt some to turn away from the Schultz's work without getting deeply into their content, and when that happens everyone misses out. Additionally, no treatise on ministry is ever going to address everything for everyone, and this book is no exception. There's no such thing as a "one size fits all" ministry approach, and even the application and benefits of the Schultz's "4 Acts of Love" will need to be tested and adapted to fit in your own church situation "on the ground." Only a fool accepts everything as ready-made for everybody (which, of course, is an entrenched attitude that has become a big part of the problem the Schultz's so eloquently address in this book).


Still, those issues aside, the one thing the Schultz's always do (whether I'm shouting "Amen!" or mumbling "Now wait a minute...")—is make me think.


I love that. I love people who share a heart for God and for ministry in a way that is both practical and intellectually challenging. And I love the way that kind of honesty shows up in this book. It makes me think, makes me reconsider my own assumptions and reaffirms the value of intellectual curiosity and authentic living in a Christian person's life.


Will you agree with everything you read in here? Maybe, maybe not. But regardless of where you end up, you will be rewarded with an opportunity to think deeply about what the modern American church is and does and can become. Because of that, this book is easily recommended.


Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore is must-reading for anyone in church leadership, both paid and volunteer.


Let’s Talk About It


If your family members are interested in this book, then encourage discussion about it afterward. You can use these questions to get started:


• Do you agree with the statement, "The American Church is broken"? Defend your answer.


• How would you describe your experience with church to someone who has never been to church? Explain.


• The Schultz's claim that "4 acts of love" (see above) will transform both your church and the Church as a whole. Which of those 4 acts is your church good at? Which is more difficult for your church to live out consistently? Why?


• If you could ask Thom & Joani Schultz one question about their book, what would it be? How do you think they'd answer?


• How would you complete this sentence: "After reading Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore, my next step will be..." Explain your answer.




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