I haven’t blogged in months, but felt compelled in light of several different conversations I’ve had in the past few weeks.
The conversation on this topic has dwindled down now but several months ago there was excessive chatter on the millennial generation and their relationship to the church. The research [and I use that word with a grain of salt as Christians are notorious for being awful at it] showed the numbers- young Christians are leaving the traditional church in droves, some leaving the Christian faith altogether but many nurturing their faith in community with friends in living rooms, coffee shops and *gasp* pubs.
As one commentator put it, “Real church happens in circles, not rows.”
Fair enough. Most of my meaningful faith formation experiences happened while drinking coffee, on long car rides or sitting around a campfire after singing Kumbaya [OK, I made that last part up] and I understand the attraction to ditch the traditional church model, form a band of brothers [and sisters] and crack open the Bible at home, forgetting about the steeple, choir and the professional preacher.
Can I speak candidly? I’ve been tempted to take that plunge.
It seems sexy, inviting and just so real. Even despite a life altering derailment in my own life caused by the hands of the institutional church, I still find myself worshiping in one every Sunday. Why?
Free Coffee?Doesn’t hurt.
But if I take the time to analyze why I still spend 2 hours a week singing songs under my breath, awkwardly shaking hands with strangers and listening to a sermon is because I still believe the church, operating correctly is the most powerful force for good in the world. Despite the flaws, quirks, issues, problems and sweaty deacons, it still is the bride of Christ.
I have found that more often than not, the reasons I rationalize to bail on the church has little to do with the church and most to do with me and my own flawed reality. I could go on and on about the church’s dysfunction, brokenness and depravity. Yet, if I am honest, my complaints are nothing more than me trying to mask my own pride and self righteousness under the pitiful guide of “truth”.
I can separate myself from that big, eccentric and eclectic family of God, yet the reality is, with or without my participation the church will go on.
What I have found to be the trend that runs through for those that leave church for the greener grasses of their own spiritual homogeneous enclave is an overwhelming attitude of consuming instead of contributing.
When we forfeit our right to be a part of the church, to be a force for good in the world, exchanging representing Jesus with our dysfunctional family to the sidelines of pews and free coffee, functioning merely as a consumer and not a contributor, we will end up let down, thus discouraged, thus vilify.
As one author put it, “Christians are the most cannibalistic creatures on the planet. They eat their own.”
How much of that is our own issue because we don’t put any value in the church? Instead of appreciating the glorious mess, choosing to prod from a distance.
A person is not going to endure trials in something that they have no value in. How many college freshman that are working their way through school fail out their first semester as opposed to those that are fortunate enough to have a third party finance their degree? So it is with one’s relationship with the church. If our posture toward, as one friend put it, “the religious animal” is to consume and not contribute, having our proverbial back scratched and needs met, we will become a statistic.
I had a comical moment several weeks ago while visiting another church for work. A woman came in and complained to the greeter that it was entirely too cold in the building and the church is wasting its tithe money on cranking the A/C and it needs to be turned down. A few minutes later, a man came in and complained that it was entirely too hot in the sanctuary and they needed to crank up the A/C. The greeter and I locked eyes. I smirked.
As trivial and germane as that story is, it is a small indicator of the attitude many of us posses in our lives that trickles into our church—you exist to serve me, you exist to meet my needs, make my happy or I am leaving you!
Yet the Bible clearly teaches the exact opposite.
Have you given up on the institution, the religious animal? Maybe you should reconsider and honestly ask yourself if your disappointment had less to do with the hypocrisy, the moral and social issues the church stands for or the sanctuary being too cold. Could it be that the problem is not them, but us?
Will we allow our generation’s caricature reigns true; entitled, narcissistic and self absorbed? Has that gotten in the way of us embracing the bride of Christ fully and loving our dysfunctional brothers and sisters?
Augustine said (paraphrased): “The church is a whore, but she is my mother”
You can be a part of a force for good, you can be part of the hands and feet of Jesus, you can be a part of a big, messy, dysfunctional family where every nut, flake and fruit shows up.
You can also drink coffee and sing Kumbaya.
You can also be a cynic, skeptic and critic.
You can do whatever you want, but the church will go on.