Sunday, January 27, 2008

I Sold My Soul on eBay


This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. A young, well-educated atheist (Hemant Mehta) had a curiosity about Christianity, so he came up with the idea of allowing various churches to bid for his attendance at their church. What happened surprised everyone. He spent a year visiting all kinds of churches all over the country. This book is a look at faith through an atheist's eyes. He is not angry or anti-Christian, and he has no agenda other than seeking the truth.

The last chapter is called "What it Would Take to Convert Me." It is a wonderfully candid critique of what churches are doing right, and what they are doing wrong. One observation was interesting. He writes, "Speaking of those who walk into church late, I want to know why they do so. Not everyone gets stuck in traffic. If church is so important, there is no reason to walk in late. In fact, if going somewhere to worship God is important, then people should arrive early. It seems completely disrespectful to me when people walk into the auditorium five or ten minutes into the service. And what's worse is when parents come in with their children, who learn by example that walking in late is not a big deal. It's just church, right? No need to get there on time. Is that what Christians want to teach their children?"

Interesting observation from the ultimate outsider. Your thoughts?

10 comments:

jenn said...

He makes a good point! I will admit that there have been times that I have not wanted to get out of bed to go to church. What's worse is my thinking..."I have to get up early all the time. Church isn't my job, I won't be getting paid. I won't be in trouble by my boss if I don't go. Hmm. Zzz" I am now back asleep. Truth is, I will be getting paid a lot more if I would get my lazy head out of bed. I should be up extra early and excited about the Lord's day and make sure my kids get excited. I have a way of letting Satan control me and my thoughts way too much! And it seems he has extra power on Sundays! I wish that I was a better christian...ony I can change that! We need to remember that as we sometimes look and judge those who may not go to church, are we any better when we are having to force ourselves out of bed only to be cranky and yelling at the kids and not talking to the husband/wife before church then to walk in with a smile and pretend to be the perfect family?

Charles North said...

I understand. I'm the preacher and Sun mornings are hard! Churches are also to blame though - so many churches just bore people with irrelevant nonsense, and fill up people's lives with more busyness. For years I tried to get people to see how out of tune Sunday night services are. In traditional churches less than half the people show up - for good reason!

FriendlyAtheist said...

Thanks for the kind words about my book! I appreciate the analysis :)

-- Hemant

Mark said...

OK, I've got to get on my soap box here... two points:

One: Our priorities are ALL screwed up and it begins when we are kids. I watch every Saturday and Sunday as kids practice football for a spring league. They practice for hours. That means that these kids probably spend most of their time in school, doing homework, or on the field. No wonder they don't have the time or energy to enter into worship to God with the church! Its all a bit of idolatry, it's all vanity.

Second point... we've got some real cruddy relationships with each other in the church. Our self-righteous attitudes have made the corporate gathering into a place where we can not let our guard down, where as Jenn put it, we've got to "pretend to be the perfect family." There is an amazing lack of honesty. Why? Because, I know some "brother" or "sister" will be critical and condemning of my shortcomings and struggles.

Kerrie said...

If this man with an open heart and mind walked into our assembly what would he see on a given Sunday morning? What would we have to offer him that might compel him to want to believe in Jesus? If he is coming as a result to analyze what drives our beliefs and to see what motivates us to follow Him would he find that here? Would he find apathy, fatigue and boredom or would he experience genuine love and see our desire to be in the presence of our Father and other Christians.

I understand that worship (formal worship on Sunday morning) means different things and includes different preferences for different people. What I see in many present day services includes much more than just time spent as a group praising the Father, growing in our understanding and refueling for the coming week. It can become a complicated interrupting mix of many activities that might not be best in focusing on filling our God given needs of hunger and thirsting after Him.

It’s possible that to answer the question of why folks are late/absent rests in a question of are needs being met in those congregations that merit their attendance?

Charles North said...

Those are all very good thoughts. Hemant - you are welcome. It really is a great book!

Our life..... said...

I am guilty of being late and just not caring. Sometimes I wonder why even go?? My mind is not in it so why go through the motions. When I was younger I felt like I was just getting my check mark with God. The sad thing about all that is it has rubbed off on my children. They now make up stuff to persuade me not to go to church. Most times I feel since we dont have a church home anymore then no one knows we are not going to church and some how I think it is okay. I should remember that God still knows I am not going. If I was going to church like I was suppose to I would also remember what day it is! Church should be #1 in our life not what is coming on TV etc.

Kerrie said...

I'm really curious to know what he thought was being done right.

Charles North said...

I'll work that into another post, or even a Wed night class as well.

Ryan said...

I think the problem is that we have erroneous view of both God and worship.

1 - Many people act like God is just watching and waiting to get them. Thus church attendance is something we do to appease Him. It has become our modern day atonement sacrifice.

2 - We have compartmentalized our worship services and decided what is important and what is not. Be there for the whole worship (praise, communion, preaching) or don't go at all. I know the Bible says that we should not forsake the assembling of the saints and most use that as their "you have to go to church on Sunday morning" verse. How is that worship?