Ever wonder what pastors think about when they can’t sleep at night? Why there are fewer and fewer sheep to count.

Kids soccer or Cowboys games at noon; dove or deer season; holiday weekends at the lake; homecoming weekends or big football games just hours away; summer break or winter colds; a sunny day or rainy day (only balmy and overcast days are good for church attendance!). When you count the Sundays the sheep miss church by nibbling the greener grass in other pastures, slipping back into the gathered flock feels like visiting.

Pastors wonder how to draw the sheep back without neglecting those that stay for those that stray. Jesus would have us leave the 99 to find the one lost lamb, but how do we entice the lost to return to the fold?

The tempting strategy these days is to compete with other activities on their terms by making church seem so much like the greener pastures straying sheep seek that they will think they have gone there when they go to church. Prayers of confession give way to seminars on self-esteem. We rail against sex in movies and violence in rap lyrics but say nothing about greed or war. Rather than tuning in to God in silence and stillness, we turn up the noise. We ditch yesteryear’s hymnal grandma sang from and put up screens for choruses written yesterday. Worship becomes more entertainment than adoration of God. We hope the show makes people show – and pay admission (uh, tithes and offerings). We dress down for Jesus, so that it won’t be so counter-casual-culture to go to church.

The church’s capitulation to culture infects and affects us all. Instead of being in the world but not of the world, we try to out-world the world. In so doing, we reflect the world around us and have nothing left to offer it.

The Amish in Lancaster, Penn., don’t worry about cultural relevance. When their little girls were cruelly murdered last month at the hand of a deranged man, instead of doing the expected, they offered forgiveness to the dead murderer and asked us to pray for the man’s family.

The gospel counters culture: It teaches things Madison Avenue knows nothing about. You have to go to church more than now and then to learn that. And when you get there, you have a right to expect it to be more a trip to Bountiful than a trip to Branson.