As the title indicates I have wrestled with this post for some time. I read an article back before Christmas that really stirred me up. I have been unable to really organize my thoughts and express my position until this week. I have such a deep connection with the church having been raised in church and serving in various capacities since I was 13, I feel very deeply about the subject. I have served as a music minister (2 yrs), youth pastor (6mo), board member (2 yrs felt like 6), Sunday school teacher 4 yrs), and various other capacities. Additionally, my grandfather was a pastor, my father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother/sister in-law, and many friends are ministers. Needless to say I am close to the issue.
Now, the article is titled, “On Leaving Church”, and written by Bill Muhlenburg in his blog CultureWatch. While he quotes several authors and several statistics, I will leave the academic part of the discussion for you to read yourself. I want to focus more on my own observations and feelings on the topic, they are deep rooted and I need to express them for my sake and hopefully the betterment of the church.
The article sites numerous reasons that my generation is leaving the church, not leaving due to change of beliefs, but lack of belief in the Church. None of the reasons sited in the article are worthy reasons in my opinion. They range from, “they focus to much on youth”, to, “it’s to much about entertainment”, to, ” there is to much encouragement and not enough preaching the gospel.” I can relate to all of these, I have experienced them myself and did not feel compelled to leave the Church. There are, however, other reasons that ARE much more compelling that the article does not delve into for some reason. That is where I want to elaborate.
In the article the author says, and I paraphrase, people are tired of the plop, pray, pay cycle of church membership, they want to play. I think He is SPOT ON. Why he does not elaborate this point escapes me. I want to play!!! Not on the worship team, although I love that, not play on the board or some other self serving entity of the church as much as that is needed. I want to play, I want to be active, I want to be actively serving our world, not actively serving the interest of the church. Which interestingly enough when we serve outside the church walls we are serving the interest of the church, seems contradictory to say that but it’s true. Churches that really grasp the concept of getting outside their 4 wall heated and cooled space are healthy churches. Don’t misquote or misunderstand me, Sunday school, children’s ministry, music, preaching, small groups, Etc. Are all needed and necessary. But once someone has reached a spiritually mature state it’s about more than observing and reaching those brave enough to enter the church. We must go outside to reach the world. I have been reflecting on my own life and I have been most fulfilled when I am involved with a mission outreach outside the church walls.
It is vital that my generation realize and fulfill this call of the church for our sake as well as the church. The article points out the lack of interest that millennial’s have, as a group, in church. I firmly believe that a church that has spent so much time serving its members needs and fails to teach them how to serve others has missed the point. They are sitting and soaking up everything offered and not returning because they have never been taught to and in many cases have not seen it demonstrated. Or is it that they see the act of serving in the church as futility when the church isn’t meeting their generation where they are, outside Its walls. Either way it’s tragic and it’s killing the church as a whole. Where it has always been about the members and their needs, we HAVE to change this culture. It’s about those outside the church walls. Again, I understand this is a generalization that does not apply to everyone, I am pointing out observation and factual information about generational tendencies.
Lastly, what do we do? For myself it is a recommitment to spend time volunteering with local ministries and out reaches. It is not easy or convenient and I think in some respects that’s the point. It’s not about ME, it’s about Jesus and showing that kind of Love and Compassion to people who need it. Yes, that can be done inside the church, but as I stated above that’s not the point. If we are going to truly deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him that leads us outside where it’s dangerous, uncomfortable, uncharted territory where we have no choice but to depend Him. Secondly, it is a recommitment to my local church body, I don’t think the answer is to abandon the corporate Felowship in its most desperate hour.
I welcome comments and other perspectives on this issue so please feel free to leave yours. I think it is going to take everyone involved in our churches to change the culture. It starts with US (the church). The Church is actually everyone who attends, not a building, therefore we must start being the Church! Thanks for reading!!