As with many recurring hot topics, young people
fleeing from being driven from leaving churches has caught some momentum in recent weeks with points and counterpoints flying back and forth across the blogosphere.
Millennials are leaving churches and it's a problem. But is the trend of young people leaving or not staying in church a new problem? And whose problem is it? Are churches lacking authenticity and the exaltation of Jesus? Or are the young people too fickle or not even believers to begin with? Maybe it's a mix of all of the above.
There have been insightful words spoken from all sides of the argument. Some saying young people just want to be heard and aren't looking for pretense. Some saying churches should seek to be uncool. I'm prone to contrarianism, so I find myself thinking, "Yes, but..." with a lot of what I've read.
For starters, many young people find churches inhospitable, if not hateful toward those with differing beliefs and lifestyles. While I agree that a LOT of Christians (myself included) have mistreated people who disagree with them (and have throughout time), I still get a sense that many are looking for Christians/churches to accept opposing beliefs under the banner of tolerance and respect. I think that's wrong (and a false dichotomy that doesn't allow for moral disagreement and human respect to coexist.)
It's been suggested that focusing on what we're for rather than what we're against might cause people to stick around. From a pastoral perspective, I think you have to proclaim both.
If a life in Christ looks a certain way, it also does NOT look a certain way (Galatians 5:16-26). This WILL cause people to leave churches. Jesus Himself had this happen (John 6:22-66). He could have just preached what they all agreed on, but that wasn't His full counsel. So, if editing what churches teach/preach is the key to keeping people in churches, count me out. Hopefully that isn't the sentiment being suggested.
There are things that Christians believe, because the Bible says them, that will always make certain people feel unwelcome in a sense. There is no getting around that. What we need to do, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is be kind to everyone while still being able to correct with gentleness (2 Timothy 2:24-25). Kindness and correction are not mutually exclusive. It's when Christians fail to season truth with grace that the tone repels rather than the message. God forbid it be the messenger that is being rejected.
Loving our/God's enemies seems to be the snag. Are we desiring and pursuing the good of others? Because that's love. Coddling is not love. Neither is assuming the role of wrath-dispenser.
As far as keeping things cool, uncool, whathaveyou... we need simply to strive for authenticity. This is scary, because authenticity requires transparency. And we all know transparencies and overheads are NOT cool. Oh, sorry, wrong transparency...
Being transparent means being vulnerable and that is counter to most church cultures. As far as being "cool?" Just be who you are. I've worshiped with really genuine, authentic congregations that had multi-thousand dollar projection systems and wireless in-ear monitors for the musicians, etc. AND I've worshiped with really genuine, authentic congregations that gathered in a small room without electricity. If it's Spirit-driven and Christ-centered, it's all good. As soon as it becomes, "our fog machine is bigger than your fog machine," we've derailed. One of the biggest realizations I've experienced in ministry (in America's 4th largest city) is that you cannot get caught up in the coolness competition. Some church will always be cooler than yours. And the culture of the world will ALWAYS be cooler than all of you.
Culture is not to be competed with or retreated from. It is to be redeemed. And by that I don't mean we need to high-jack the icons of the unbelieving world and Jesus-fy them (Abreadcrumb and Fish, anyone?). That is not culture war. Culture war is preaching against the attitudes and idols of this world so that hearts are transformed and culture is as a result. Pointing people away from idol worship hinges on pointing people toward Christ worship.
So, those are my jumbled, first-glance thoughts on the
new age-old dust up. I'm sure it won't be a problem for anyone else now or for ages to come! Heh