Why are millennials and Gen X’ers are leaving the church….really?
I saw this title a few days ago and began to chew on it. Then I wrote this (on my theology blog) which I’ve revised much since I originally posted it yesterday afternoon. Not wanting to be swayed by another writer, I waited until my thoughts were composed to go back and read the first article. Surprisingly, mine was relatively similar. It was basically placing blame on the church-we want more Jesus-not more religion….blah blah blah. You wouldn’t know my post said this unless you read it yesterday because a friend, who doesn’t believe in church (or maybe Jesus) gave me another pill to swallow. Surprisingly her take on the whole matter was refreshing to me and provided a perspective I’ve forgotten.
“What about those who just don’t believe?” she asked. Hmmmm. What about those people?
This started me really REALLY thinking. In fact, I reread what I had written and was embarrassed.
1. I grew up a minister’s kid. My parents, to this day, are some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. They love completely and have sacrificed their entire lives to serve others. My grandparents started this tradition and passed it on. I married a man, who quietly and without fanfare, does the same. I did not grow up in legalism but rather in the Freedom I believe Jesus gives his followers.
2. I did grow up in the Southern Baptist tradition, in some wonderful churches and in some that were lacking… While I think, at times, its leaders have done some embarrassing things to represent us, and at times I’ve wanted to run away from every association with them-I still believe most of their doctrines and have a Master’s Degree from one of their Seminaries.
3. The “church” (whatever denomination) has hurt people, and some people have left the church, never to return to it again.
4. I have been hurt in the “church” at times and held to ridiculous and unattainable standards and I have not left. And I love Jesus more today than I ever have and I still go to church.
5. People in our generation DO want something more or different out of church….but maybe they don’t love Jesus more. Maybe there are just as many people who love Jesus as there have always been.
Everyone is sitting around trying to figure out why churches in America are shrinking. They don’t seem to be shrinking in the non-Western world-so why are they shrinking here? There are articles, there’s not enough Jesus. There are ideas: worship is unnatural, I hate drums, I love drums, etc. There are questions, if we’d called that person after they visited church they’d come back. We, the Church are grasping at straws. Even me. If I ACTED MORE LIKE JESUS!
But perhaps, just maybe, like my friend said, maybe they don’t come because they don’t believe.
Who am I, who are we as a Church, to think that someone believing in God is 100% dependent on us? Yes Jesus says to be lights in the world-and there’s that, but am I so lofty and prideful to think that God’s word and Jesus’ tangible presence in someone’s life is not enough? If you believe in Jesus and his claims, you cannot help but come to him and be in community-even when that community is messy (because life on Earth is messy). Look at the outcasts in the NT: Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, the woman who had been bleeding, and many many more. They came to Jesus despite the way they’d been treated by the Church. They came and he reached them, like he reaches everyone who seeks him out.
I don’t think that the actual number of Christians is shrinking, maybe the church is, but I think those who have followed Jesus closely have always been small in number. Church was the thing to do in the 1950’s. It was the thing to do in the 200’s. It has been the law of the Land many different places and times in history. Church not Jesus.
Perhaps our generation is saying no to church, simply like my friend said, because they just don’t believe. They find it far-fetched. It doesn’t make sense in a logical world-and it doesn’t and my generation won’t fake it to save face.
But it does make sense to me because I believe in Jesus; that he is real and living and that he affects my everyday life, not because of nice people at church, songs that are well sung, or sermons that are well preached-that’s just icing.
I hope and pray that God uses me in this world to point people to his Son, to have them tilt their heads and think or wonder upon things they never thought about before, to open the Bible and really read it, instead of just looking to what the media says about Christians and Jesus. (fox news does not personally represent us). BUT, I almost hope he confronts them alone in their room one night like he did Anne Lamott. Because it is simply not about me. It is about Him…
(In no way am I giving license for Christians to behave in any way that misrepresents Jesus. However, the true Christian knows they are incapable of this without daily and constant communion with him. John 15. I am also not close to being finished pondering Jesus, my generation, and the Church).