We have all been reading in national journals about the waning fortunes of mainline churches. These articles describe, it seems, with pundit glee how Episcopalians and their Presbyterian, Methodist, United Church of Christ, Catholic and now even Baptist peers are losing their potency on the American scene. Evangelical journals suggest that it is the adoption of progressive political views that have caused the decline.

They point out that more and more people choose churches not on the basis of a denomination they were formed and nourished in, but on more convenient matters such as the quality of the nursery, signature coffee, exercise programs, diet workshops, daycare, schools, praise music and relevant sermons about Jesus’ love.

Say what you want about all this, but my experience has been that gradually some parishioners in any of the mainline traditions have become clients of user-friendly programs instead of servants, consumers instead of disciples, critics instead of adherents, desiring comfort and less challenge. I have read ten years of commentary about how congregations have been overwhelmed by consumer expectations and how church strategies and worship preferences have outweighed commitment to the blessings and cost of discipleship. People who attend church growingly demand agreement, satisfaction, entertainment, excitement, conformity, and bite-size answers to the big questions. Some complain that instead of being saved by Jesus our churches are encouraging taking positions on moral and social policy and recommending their congregants write Congress, especially on matters that affect policies regarding the fate of the poor and marginalized groups. How have you chosen the church you attend? What is important to you?