British Church for Atheists Sounds Sadly Like Most Seeker Friendly or Evangelical U.S. Churches
This British church for atheists sounds pretty similar to many evangelical, Baptist, and seeker friendly churches in America.
The article (linked to much farther below in this post) describes a group of atheists who want weekly community (some of the atheists are former Christians), and these atheists sing rock songs during their “church” services.
If that doesn’t sound like American churches today I don’t know what does.
A lot of seeker friendly, Baptist, and evangelical American churches have turned into nothing but impersonal, social clubs with cool rock bands, with the sermon consisting of mainly pop culture references and a series of practical how-to steps (like how to get a raise at work).
Not that I am opposed to rock music in church (though I prefer traditional music in church myself), nor am I opposed to a little humor being interjected into a church service, but.
If your church service is identical to that of this atheist church in Britain, you may be doing church wrong.
I do think the “atheist church” is doing at least one thing correctly that Christian churches have failed to do: meet the emotional needs of every day people.
This article mentions how atheists want to meet with each other regularly to discuss any difficulties in life they are experiencing; they need friendship to help them through tough times.
The Bible instructs Christians to do this very thing for other Christians: to bear one another’s burdens and to weep with those who weep, to provide a community and a sense of belonging to all, regardless of age, marital status, etc. Churches have failed at this.
People are lonely, and not everyone has a flesh and blood family to turn to. A lot of adults such as myself have never married, and I’m in my 40s now, and some of my family have died off already.
Churches, however don’t give a crap about meeting my needs.
They don’t care about older, childless, never married adults, or other demographics that fall outside their nauseatingly cherished “mommy and daddy with 2.5 children at home”.
Depending on which denomination or church one belongs to, some Christian groups have a “suck it up” attitude towards the ‘average Joe’ hurting Christians: many Christians don’t care to help the average Joe, middle class, guy or gal who is having a problem.
If you’re an average Joe who just got laid off from your job, and you’re afraid and nervous and need financial help or just need to vent about this situation to someone, Christians doesn’t want to hear it.
Most Christians won’t even offer to help you through your tough financial time, either, such as, by giving you free groceries from the church pantry for a couple months. (I have not been in this situation myself but have seen it played out by others.)
If you are an average Jane Christian who has been hurt because a loved one just died, your spouse divorced you, or whatever issue you are having, and you are needing emotional support (or even would appreciate concrete help, such as your rent paid a month, someone from the church mowing your lawn for you while you recover from surgery in bed), you can forget about it.
Most Christians do not give a rat’s ass about an average Joe or average Jane Christian who is going through a trial in life.
Most Christians only show and demonstrate compassion to a very narrow set of groups:
domestic abuse victims; child abuse victims; homeless drug addicts and alcoholics; sex workers (adult and child); starving and homeless orphans in Africa and third world nations.
For example: (Link): Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church Is on Mission to Fulfill Isaiah 58 – this story says Osteen’s church is giving free toiletries to homeless people in his city. That is great, but how do his church members help other church members? Do they do anything to help the never married, childess adults among them? Here’s a quote from the page about Osteen’s church:
- Members of Pastor Joel and Victoria Osteen’s Lakewood Church who have a calling for missions take part in a variety of local opportunities to serve their community, and many were volunteering their time and spiritual gifts on Saturday, wearing T-shirts that read “Serve God, help people, Isaiah 58” at Feed the Children food pantry, the Beacon, a support center for the homeless, and ministering through street evangelism outside a Harris County jail.
Again, that is all great, but what is that church doing to help the Christians among them, and Christians from other churches or other non-church-attending Christians in their area?
Is Osteen’s Lakewood church offering to pay the rent for an elderly church member who is on a fixed income and so on? If all they are doing is running around helping Non Christians in their city, they are failing.
One reason Christianity is supposed to look appealing to Non Christians is that they should see Christians loving and helping each other. If I were a homeless person, I don’t think I’d see the benefit in joining a church or believing in Christ, if His own followers are not even helping one another.
If you’re a Christian already, and do not belong to any one of those groups I mentioned above (such as homeless person, starving African orphan, stripper at a sex club, etc.), most Christians will not help you, even if you go to them and ask.
Rather, most American Christians will chide you, accuse you of having a “pity party” (one wonders if they would ever consider telling one of their precious orphan Africans, homeless crack addicts, or stripper women they minister to: “stop having a pity party!”); or, they will feed you religious cliches (Romans 8.28 is always a favorite); they will give unsolicited, heartless advice, and all in all, refuse to sit with you as you weep, which is what you really need (and maybe practical assistance, like money or free food). You know, like the Lord commands them in the Bible to do.
No, no, American Christians don’t actually want to love their Christian neighbor as themselves.
The vast majority of American Christians only want to love on African orphans as themselves, but see, that’s easier, because it only involves sending a check or a bucket of rice over the mail.
Mailing off a check to some charity, or visiting a homeless shelter once a month for an hour, doesn’t take as much effort and time investment as inviting a hurting Christian to your home for a few hours a month and letting them talk to you, uninterrupted and without judgement, as they pour their heart out over whatever they’re going through.
Churches are failing to provide honest to God community and support that people are looking for and really need.
Most churches are headed by greedy preachers who only care about how much money they can make off their members and they treat church as though it’s a business.
Of course, the members are at fault here. A lot of them don’t care to create a real community. They want to zip in for their 40 minute service, not get really close to anyone, and zip out. Some of them want to be entertained with rock bands and preachers wearing Hawaiian print shirts. The preachers are happy to oblige.
I do think there are a lot of Christians who want a real church, not the whiz bang entertainment spectacle, but I fear there are some Christians who do want the shallow church experience because they’re not willing to do the deeper work, which means, investing lots of time with relationship building with people they are not related to by blood.
Volunteering once a month at a domestic violence shleter where you read a Bible story for an hour to a group of the shelter residents does not make you a stellear Christian especially if you are ignoring and blowing off the everyday Christians with everyday problems who come across your path who ask you for on-going help (ie, emotional support/friendship) but you blow them off with speeches and platitudes.
I think maybe one reason American Christians are reluctant to help fellow hurting Christians (aside from sheer laziness), has to do with a false view of needs.
It’s a fact that all human beings, including Christians, have needs.
Accepting Jesus does not erase all needs.
Jesus does not magically meet all your needs – if you are hungry, I doubt Jesus is going to make a sandwich appear in your lap. You will have to go to the kitchen and make a sandwich yourself.
But a lot of Christians think Jesus meeting your needs will involve a majestic miracle of Red sea-parting proportions, meaning, if they were consistent, Christians would starve, because they would expect a group angels with trumpets to appear before them, holding a sandwich on a platter before them.
CODEPENDENCY IS NOT BIBLICAL
Many American Christians think it selfish for any Christian to get their needs met.
They think the Bible teaches Christians are only to serve other people all the time and that anything else is un-biblical and selfish: the Bible actually does not teach round the clock servanthood, nor does it teach that it’s always wrong for one to put one’s needs first.
I don’t feel like going into depth on this point, but just to say there is a sick, warped misconception among American Christians that it’s wrong for you, a Christian, to ever put yourself or your needs first you are supposedly only supposed to run around caring about orphans.
The Bible does not teach it, but Christians assume it is so. This ends up leaving a lot of Christians frustrated, exhausted, thinking Christianity is not true, etc.
It’s just a reality that all Christians have needs, and telling Christians that they are never to get their needs met, is asking them to live in self denial, and they will end up burnt out and resentful.
American Christians needs to pay more attention to helping fellow Christians and giving them permission to ask for help when they need it, instead of shaming them for having needs or asking for help.
A person should not have to be a crack addicted sex worker to get compassion from the Christian community. A person should not have to be an orphan in Africa to receive help from a church. One should not have to belong to some kind of extreme hardship group (orphan, widow, homeless, domestic abuse shelter resident) to receive friendship, encouragement, money, food, or emotional support from Christians.
Everyone needs help and sympathy at times, including middle class Christians living in suburbia who may be going through a crisis.
I do think these atheists are on to something with their idea of providing a weekly meeting, with part of the goal being atheists can find support and friendship among each other, especially if they are facing tribulations in life. This is a role that Christians are to play for one another, but they fail to do so. How ironic and sad atheists are doing something for each other that Christians should be doing for one another but are failing to do.
- by Nico Hines Sep 21, 2013 5:45 AM EDT
At this house of worship, the faithful don’t believe in God. And instead of praying, they sing karaoke. Nico Hines speaks to the two comedians who founded this earnest new religion.
For the most part, this Sunday morning congregation has been enjoying something that looks a lot like a traditional church service. The addition of a frenzied clapping game, “mini-rave” break-out sessions, and those billboard anthems might be the most immediately obvious differences, but there is another significant departure: this church is a God-free zone.
Founded in London earlier this year, the atheist church is expanding fast. New branches of Sunday Assembly have already been set up in Bristol, England, Melbourne, Australia, and New York City. Next month, Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, the church’s founders, will set off on a world tour designed to announce the second wave of godless churches that are opening in Ireland, Scotland, Canada, the United States, and Australia.
The numbers are still small, but the growth has been exponential since the first atheist church service was held in January. The idea is simple: it has all of the community spirit, engagement, and inspiration of a church without any of the religious aspects. Each service has at least one guest speaker, from economists to poets, a moment of reflection and, above all, repeated entreaties to get to know the rest of the people there.
Jones, the face of the burgeoning organization, has been taken aback by the acceleration of interest. He is a tall man with a thick golden beard and long blond hair; he says there are noble aspirations behind the church but concedes that part of its appeal lies in the sheer amount of fun had by the congregation. “We like to say it’s entertaining but not entertainment,” he told me. “We don’t have Heaven or Hell to tempt or threaten people with, so if you want to get people to come, you want them to say ‘this is a good thing, which I enjoy.’”
At a service this month in Bethnal Green, in London’s East End, it was clear that the mass karaoke was a highlight. “’Living On A Prayer’ smashes it so hard,” Jones said. “Or ‘Don’t Stop Me Now,’ everyone is like, ‘Oh, my God,’ I get to sing this at 11 o’clock on a Sunday–and I’m not even drunk!”
The duo at the heart of this quasi-religious network met through work. They are both stand-up comedians, which helps to explain why their twice-monthly London services are so magnetic, and so funny. Their “mind-meld” began on a three-hour drive to Somerset in South-West England, where they were both booked to appear at a small comedy club in 2011. Their conversion took place on the road to Bath.
Evans, 31, whose eyes gleam behind a mess of blonde hair, was a formerly committed Christian whose faith had lapsed. “When I decided there probably wasn’t a God, it made church a lot more awkward,” she told me. She found that she didn’t miss her faith, but she did miss her church. “I always felt like there wasn’t a place to have that same sort of community. I couldn’t get my head around how to do it without offending anyone,” she said.
Jones, meanwhile, had been struck by a flash of inspiration. “I left a Christmas carol service and thought, there’s so much here that I love, it’s just such a shame that there’s something in the middle that I don’t believe in,” he said. By the end of the road trip, the seeds that would grow into Sunday Assembly had been planted.
… Since that first service held in Islington, North London, in January, the influence of the church started to spread across London immediately. First came affiliated book and philosophy clubs and discussion groups known as the “No-Bible Bible group” or “Life Anonymous” which gave people the chance to share dilemmas or discuss problems.
At the most recent service, the congregation brought food parcels which were donated to food banks, which are run by local Christian churches. “A lot of people say, ‘I’ve got a problem with organized religion,’” Jones said. “But, that’s stupid, organization is one of the best things about religion.” One day, he would like to see an atheist network capable of good works and charity on the scale of established religions.
Next, the expansion went international. Melbourne and New York were the first foreign cities to set up branches of the church, but a more ambitious plan is underway. A world tour, which starts on October 22, will include seven stops in the U.S.; in each city a permanent church is intended to live on after Jones and Evans blow through. From Boston to Silicon Valley, via Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles, they will help host inaugural church services alongside residents who have signed up to lead local branches.
Nicole Steeves, 36, a librarian from Chicago, met Jones earlier this year. She has signed on to help establish a Sunday Assembly in the city and can’t wait for the atheist missionaries to arrive. “I think the tour is bound to be a hit in the U.S. What happens afterward, during the long-term work of community building, is the real mystery,” she told me. “But I have high hopes.”
… Sunday Assembly is not trying to convert anybody to atheism. Everyone is welcome to the services, but Jones said they would not compromise on their beliefs in order to appeal to any specific groups. “The danger of being open to people of all religions, is you can dilute it until it’s like a Coke ad of affirmative sayings with the emotional depth of an Instagram photo with a quote stuck on the front,” he said. “But we love religion, we think churches are great and we love what they do.”
… Jones’ naturally disorganized disposition has helped to ensure that there is no overwhelming centralized control. Each new Assembly will be run independently with very little supervision. He admitted that means people might take their idea and misuse it. “It’s a fine line, if you had someone starting one up in Brighton and they started being really Islamophobic every week, we need to have a way of saying this is no longer a Sunday Assembly,” he said.
… For Evans, who works for the church in between stand-up shows, the strength of existing religious networks did not prepare her for the dizzying speed with which an idea they thrashed out on short road-trip has been adopted by fellow non-believers all over the world. “The big surprise is that this has become an international movement so quickly, we didn’t realize how powerful the Internet was with an idea – so that’s been amazing,” she said. As word of their adventure races around the web, she has one concern: “The only think I don’t like is when people assume we spend an hour saying religion is stupid and people who go to church are dickheads, because we very rarely do that.”
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