Pastor Tracy Ottenbreit
Slave Lake Alliance Church
In a Gallup poll, 73 percent of Americans say moral values are worsening while only 14 percent say they are improving. I suspect many Canadians would feel the same.
Gone are the days where employers had to be primarily concerned about customers stealing from them; now employee theft is carving a large gash in the bottom line. I grew up with the saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” but the Internet age has muted that sound bite and Facebook feeds are plugged with snarky put-downs and flash judgments.
Over the last few decades, Canadians have walked away from the Church. Determined to live secular lives, we became our own purveyors of right and wrong. God was cramping our style, so it would seem.
Generations are growing up never having experienced a church service, believing God is the old man with a beard on the Simpsons and Jesus is what you say when surprised. The experiment with secularism is well under way.
This has caused some issues, mind you, as while a lot of parents have firmly decided that their children will not be “indoctrinated” by the Church, they haven’t been able to fill the gap that God has left behind. What makes something right or wrong? How do you decide? What is my purpose? Why am I here? These are questions that many are unprepared to tackle with their children in the absence of church.
So, schools try to save the day. In Alberta, schools are required to have a “character education” program. Having been exposed to some of them, I find them quite good, but they are more about developing good habits than teaching what is right or wrong. That would be dangerous territory for a system that prides itself on the separation of church and government.
On the day you read this, eight churches in the US and Canada will close their doors for the last time. Another eight tomorrow and the next day and the next. Fewer people include church as a priority for their lives. We often assume other people need character education, but I’m a good person and will be fine without it.
Belonging to a church means surrounding yourself with people who want to be more loving, more accepting, more giving, and to put God at the center of your life. A church service, among other things, is a weekly reminder of what is right and wrong and what loving others really looks like. It exposes our own self-centeredness and ego. Without these reminders, people tend to drift without change, without growth, without increasing maturity.
Support for church attendance can come from surprising sources. Here is one: “Living without the church is like working out without a trainer. You need to have the expertise and guidance of someone else. You can’t train yourself. I feel the same way about Christianity. The church is the gym of the soul. And the … pastors are like trainers that guide you through difficult times and take you to places you don’t believe you can go. A lot of people say, ‘I can do it on my own, I have a one-on-one relationship with God.’ Well, it’s not quite the same … the more I turn myself over to the process of believing in Jesus, listening to His Word and having Him guide my hand, the more I feel as though the pressure is off me now.” – Sylvester Stallone
I have found moral growth takes intentionality. Are you being intentional about yours?