November 21, 2016

It's Sunday morning ...

It's Sunday morning.

I'm in a coffee shop before I head to church.

Not long after moving to Texas, I started doing this thing, this experiment on Sunday mornings. I look around and start to count how many people are in the cafe and not going to, or coming from, church that morning.

Church attendance is hard to determine by a visual scan. I know. But I have been going to church my entire life and even though there is no longer the dress code for most church goers that there was when I was a child you can still get a sense as to whether folks are planning to worship with others that day.

I've done this in Houston and Austin. But also Tyler and Waco.

I scan the room. There are 30 patrons in this small cafe. There are 10 employees taking orders, making drinks and pastries, cleaning and sweeping. Of the 30 patrons two clearly just came from an early Sunday service. The rest? I'd bet money that they're not going to church this Sunday.

There's a cafe across the street with roughly the same scenario.

I've mentioned this before, but my sense is that the Texas I moved into is not what many assume it to be. Southern Baptist theologian and pastor Thom Rainer agrees that the Christianity of the south isn't what it used to be. Whether I'm in small towns or big cities I see a culture much like the rest of the country. Increasingly disinterested in church. Increasingly consumer oriented.

My opinions of faith practice aside, there is something that I always find distressing in this little experiment; we're getting what we paid for but we're all alone.

Of the thirty people sitting in this small cafe no one is talking to each other.

A dad walks in with his two boys. He chooses a comfy leather chair. The boys pick separate small tables. They all pull out devices and do not speak. The couple that clearly just came from church sit quietly reading separate newspapers. She reads the WSJ. He is reading USA Today. A mother scans her handheld while her daughter quietly reads a children's book.

30 people.

Sharing no more than 800 sq. ft. of space.

Completely alone.